How a herd of goats is helping protect San Francisco from wildfires
▶ Watch Video: How a herd of California goats are preventing wildfires
San Francisco is a city known for its fine dining, and this spring, even the land itself is on the menu.
A herd of goats has been let loose on the city’s fields and hillsides to chew away at the lush grass that sprouted during an unusually wet winter. In the summer, that grass can become dry and brown, turning into fuel for wildfires.
Genevieve Church, the executive director of City Grazing and the self-described “most glorified goatherd on the planet,” told CBS News that her non-profit takes a herd of 128 goats all over San Francisco and the surrounding Bay Area to limit the fire hazard. City Grazing runs the goat grazing program and coordinates with local groups.
In addition to chomping down on all the grass they can reach, the goats also serve an educational purpose. At Malcolm X. Academy, an elementary school, they provide an important lesson is sustainability, said San Francisco Unified School District landscape manager Rebecca Pollon. About 25 goats are eating grass near the school. It takes them about a week to clear the area.
“The students get to come out here and see this, and it’s a really tangible example of what we do and why we do it,” Pollon said. “It’s a really circular ecology. The goats eat the grass and they digest the grass, and their waste is really great for the soil, which helps with erosion. So over the long term, instead of slowly degrading the land, we’re regenerating the land.”
The opportunity to spend time with wild animals is one kids in the school don’t often get, school social worker Sarah Aldama said. The average student in the school comes from a low-income family, Aldama said, and the children are usually born and raised in multigenerational families in the community. There can be trouble with attendance and consistency, but having the goats in the yard can help with that problem, if only for a few days.
“They’re definitely excited to be here with the goats,” Aldama said.
The kids love interacting with the goats, and the animals are always hungry, so they come close to the fence and check the kids out.
“Who knows what a child might put through the fence? (Goats) are always opportunistic little beasts,” Church said fondly.
While the goats love to see what the kids might provide, they won’t actually eat everything that is handed to them.
“They don’t like burritos,” Church said. “People like to try to feed them their leftover food sometimes. We do ask: Please don’t feed the goats!”
With plenty of grass to eat, and an audience of admirers, this may just be a goat’s field of dreams.