2016-05-20 / Front Page

The kids are all right for yard work

Landscape goats for rent in southern Maine
By Wm. Duke Harrington Staff Writer


Chris Moulton and Heather Lombard pose at their Mill Street home with herding Chihuahua Barnaby and their herd of seven goats, which form the core of a new business Lombard is launching, Scapegoats, a landscaping business that uses goats to do the work. (Courtesy photo) Chris Moulton and Heather Lombard pose at their Mill Street home with herding Chihuahua Barnaby and their herd of seven goats, which form the core of a new business Lombard is launching, Scapegoats, a landscaping business that uses goats to do the work. (Courtesy photo) For seven young goats now living on Mill Street in West Kennebunk, their new job definitely qualifies as good work if you can get it.

Starting in June, the goats – two Nigerian dwarfs, an oberhasli, and four big alpines – will be rented out across southern Maine as landscape artists.

The goats – named Gertrude, Ray, Zephyr, Molly, Sawyer, Bernadette and Cleo – belong to Heather Lombard who, along with her boyfriend Chris Moulton, had launched Scapegoats, which she believes is a first-of-its-kind enterprise in the state.

In essence, if you have brush that needs clearing, Lombard and Moulton will bring their herd to your place, fence off a quarter acre spot, and let the goats do their thing. A week later, the area in question will be, if not cleared to the ground, at least a lot less dense than it was beforehand.


Scapegoats is a new landscaping business, based in West Kennebunk, that uses goats to do the work. (Courtesy photo) Scapegoats is a new landscaping business, based in West Kennebunk, that uses goats to do the work. (Courtesy photo) “The cool thing about renting them out is that they can eat a lot of things that would typically take machinery, or herbicides to remove, and a lot of heavy, backbreaking work besides,” Lombard said.

The goats will eat the greenery, deaden most shrubs, and trample the brush, with large and small goats covering spots both high and low.

“They don’t solve the problem completely. They’re not going to go in there with rakes and clippers, they’re not going to mow your lawn,” Lombard adds with a laugh. “So, at the end, you’ll have a lot of clearing done, but you’ll still have to go in there. But you’ll have a really good start.

Lombard, 36, has always been a lover of animals – a trained veterinary technician, her other business is a pet-sitting service called Paws on the Go – and was looking for a way to transition out of mental health services, for which she earned a master’s degree, and somehow get into farming.

“After hiking about half of the Appalachian Trail over three and a half months last year, I came back knowing that I only ever wanted to work outdoors,” she said.

It was during a casual conversation with a friend earlier in the year about the agricultural possibilities along the Mousam River, where she lives, when the goat idea came up.

People use sheep to groom lawns, why not goats to clear brush? But after doing research, Lombard could not find a service like that anywhere in Maine. In fact, the closest such business she could locate was in Amherst, Massachusetts. Undeterred, Lombard approached the farm, served an apprenticeship and came home with a herd of her own.

“The whole green aspect of it really intrigued me,” she said. “It’s been going really well, although it’s been a huge learning curve.”

Her seven goats can clear about a half-acre per week, at a cost of between $500 and $700. Lombard puts up the fencing, provides a shelter and visits the goats daily, asking only that the homeowner keep them watered.

The goats happily chop away at shrubbery that’s both hard to remove, like knotweed, and loathsome to touch, like poison ivy. They only downside is that they shouldn’t be fenced in with milkweed, lily of the valley, rhododendron and azaleas, all of which are poisonous to them. But Lombard will walk a property in consultation with the owner to determine if her herd is a good fit for the site needs.

“I was encouraged when I first researched this and saw a lot of information about it and what a success it’s been in a lot of places,” Lombard said. “But then I was even more encouraged when I realized there’s really no competition anywhere in Maine.”

In fact, the operation is so new, there’s not even a permit to cover it.

Town Clerk Merton Brown said a regular business license is all Lombard needs, while code enforcement secretary Beverly Staples said there are no zoning rules apart from horses.

“She can have whatever kind of livestock she wants out there,” Staples said. “As far as a license, I haven’t seen one so far that applies. Maybe they’ll add it to the agenda for zoning ordinance changes.”

“I’m the only one around here I know of who’s doing this, but goats and other grazing animals have been used for centuries for land management. Even today, airports in Atlanta, Seattle, San Francisco and Chicago, as well as the Google headquarters in California have all rented goats for this purpose.

Apart from chewing up anything less than a quarter inch in diameter in places humans and machinery can’t reach, and grinding seeds so they do not create new growth, Lombard notes one other advantage they leave behind.

“Their manure provides a nutrient-rich improvement for the soil,” she said. “And, best of all, it’s odorless.”

Staff Writer Duke Harrington can be reached at news@kennebunkpost.com.

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