Owning a central Virginia farm just got a little more sustainable. When it comes to issues like a pesky invasive species taking over your property, there are a couple options. Herbicides like RoundUp have been in play for years and require extensive testing by the likes of the EPA before becoming available on the market, but that doesn’t mean they’re 100% safe. Most of them are relatively safe for humans (providing you don’t ingest them) but can still have pretty detrimental ecological effects, doing damage to animal populations (birds especially) and rendering the soil infertile. As is often the case, the cheaper option often wins out, and the use of herbicides in recent decades has become almost as pervasive as some of their target species. But in the past couple years there has been a noticeable surge in the interest of pesticide-free, organic produce grown on organic farms. This is certainly the case with farms near Charlottesville, a city where the farm-to-table aesthetic characterizes the ideology of many farmers, restaurateurs, and consumers. Many farms in Charlottesville are keen to produce healthy, pesticide-free fruits and vegetables on their land. If you want to rear crops on a farm in or near central Virginia without the use of pesticides…heck, if you want to clear persistent weeds or overgrown vegetation on your personal property, who ya gonna call? Goat busters!
Based in Afton and servicing land in the Greater Charlottesville area and beyond (at least as far as Richmond), Goat Busters fearlessly commands a fleet of goats and uses them to rid your land of pesky plants. Kinda makes sense if you think about. Using these scrappy, stubborn, hard-headed animals to combat plants with the tenacity of kudzu or Japanese honeysuckle comes down to fighting fire with fire. The benefits are many: you get to avoid the detrimental effects that herbicides have on soil integrity and save the money you’d spend on heavy, industrial machinery. Goats normally eat lots of vines, but when the weather gets dry, their diets diversify. They’ll eat poison ivy, poison oak, and many other plants native to land in central Virginia. And they’ll get in between rocks, steep hills, and other hard-to-reach places with ease. They’ll also spot check troublesome areas because as you probably know, clearing a plot of land is not just a one-and-done task. The plants are pretty attached to your land, and they aren’t giving in easily. You’ll have to address trouble spots more than once, whether it be repeated applications of herbicides or repeat visits from hungry goats. The Goat Busters pledge to devote as much time as necessary to a plot of land, and subsequent waves are cheaper, since there is less work for the goats to do on second and third visits. And of course, the end result of having a bunch of goats grazing the encroaching plants on your land includes a bunch of rich, smelly, eco-friendly fertilizer as part of the deal.
Obviously these guys aren’t the only option for clearing land overrun by persistent, invasive plant species. Herbicides are cheaper and more economical (at least from a monetary perspective). It would probably be more affordable in the long run to buy your own goats, have them graze the portions of your land that are overrun, and sell them once the job was done. But with this course of action come all the extra responsibilities. You must consider fencing, predation, dealing with goat health and providing food, water and shelter, not to mention the time it takes to buy and sell them. But there’s no denying the advantages to this method of land clearing. If you’re sitting on farmland or a rural estate in central Virginia and you’re looking for environmentally-conscious ways to address an invasive plant species, consider the Goat Busters. Your land may thank you some day.