At the home range in Rhinebeck, NY Fenced 8 acre goat field. Photos © Green Goat Farm used with permission.
By Lily Lavender Wolf
Imagine this: strolling through the beautiful oasis of Riverside Park on the Upper West Side of Manhattan – the planted trees and straight walks wedged in between the street, the highway, and the brilliant Hudson River. Saunter uptown in the park starting at the 97th street entrance, past the playground with human-sized plastic dinosaurs and laughing children; past the dog run and the outdoor seating of the restaurant overlooking the sunset; into the Wild, the part of Riverside left the most to wilderness abandon, spanning at least ten blocks worth of tree roots, a small brook running downhill, and narrow overgrown paths. Emerging from this area, there is a fenced-off zone, and suddenly the air smells of hay. The first time I stumbled upon the region it was nighttime, and I saw strange creatures stirring in the shadows. Upon closer inspection I found the most delightful surprises – goats!
Photos © Green Goat Farm used with permission
Welcome to what the park coalition dubs “Goatham City”. From May 21st to August 30th the summer of 2019, twenty-five goats were brought to a two-acre section of Riverside Park, spanning from 119th street to 125th street. They were let to roam in their space to scour the land, ravenously devouring invasive vegetation, particularly the egregious poison ivy. Watching the goats climb their hale bales, eat the plants they so covet, and tenderly play with each other proved such a delight for viewers, drawing quite some crowds this past summer. People were charmed by the friendships the goats had with each other, the way they trekked around the acres they lived upon, learning their names and gaining favorites – to the point that on www.riversideparknyc.org there actually was a poll for the most beloved goat (the winner was Massey)!
Photos © Green Goat Farm used with permission.
Green Goat Farm in Rhinebeck, NY, has been loaning out their goats to different parks and farms in order to allow them to clear the areas of invasive species and undesirable plants – that are definitely desirable to the goats themselves. As their website www.green-goats.com states, the goats get “a chance to live the American Dream – they eat for a living!” The farm’s owner, Larry Cihanek, absolutely loves working with goats every day. The goats on the farm are gifted to them by local farmers who can’t keep their goats anymore, or from the ASPCA taking them from alleged facilities that provide less-than-satisfactory conditions for their animals. Green Goat Farm works to save goats from the meat market; over thirty-five years, Cihanek has worked on two farms, and reports “we only take friendly goats. We leave the goats until all the vegetation is gone.”
The farm has loaned out the goats to six different states, the farthest travel being 620 miles, or a three-to-four-hour drive. Coordination mainly consists of making sure of the goats’ access to periodic washing and veterinarians. The goats are never used for milking and always given the space to enjoy themselves as they “work” to clear the land. Keeping the goats for the love of animals certainly gives back to the lovely creatures, and Green Goat Farm is doing a fantastic job; the goats are happy, parks and farms have their spaces cleared, and people get to watch the sweet animals in public spaces like Riverside Park. Goatham City was certainly a magical summertime experience to all who stumbled upon it. You can contact the farm here www.green-goats.com to find out where their goats are so you can say “hello.”
Lily Lavender Wolf is a writer and avid lover of nature and animals. She hails from Manhattan but has wandered upstate to the beautiful Hudson Valley of New York State, where she revels in the wooded mountains. She studies Environmental Psychology at the State University in New York (SUNY), New Paltz campus.