Goats Who Landscape? Who Would Have Guessed?

Definition of scapegoat

1: a goat upon whose head are symbolically placed the sins of the people after which he is sent into the wilderness in the biblical ceremony for Yom Kippur
2a : one that bears the blame for others
b : one that is the object of irrational hostility

Above is how Webster’s defines the well-known term “scapegoat.” If you spin around this term, though, you know what you get? Something even better: “GoatScape”! (I’m sorry, that was my attempt at…something).

Allegheny GoatScape (alleghenygoatscape.org) is a local nonprofit that employs goats–with donkeys as site managers–as an alternative to traditional landscaping practices. Goats, this website states, are a great option for clearing overgrown land because they are efficient, eco-friendly, and engaging.¹

The team is (mostly) assembled and working hard near the Waterfront in Homestead, PA.

“Wow, what a creative, fun way to blend environmental stewardship with community engagement,” I thought when I first heard of Allegheny GoatScape. This organization was even more appealing because, frankly, I really like goats. So, I signed up to volunteer.

Here are a few of my thoughts about my experience with helping “Team Diamond” (the other crew, “Team Hobo,” was munching away across the Monongahela River at the Hazelwood work site). The teams were named after their donkey foreman.

  • Several people who were walking, jogging, or biking on the path next to the site stopped to watch the action. Youngsters and not-quite youngsters asked questions, took pictures, and commented how, much like the goats, their dog could walk through poison ivy without being affected. While I was checking in on the herd and treating Diamond with fly repellent, I had a nice conversation with a few police officers and an older lady. Initiatives like Allegheny GoatScape are not only good for the environment but also a way for people to learn something new and connect with others.
  • My hands got pretty dirty. And, yes, I had to try my best to avoid scatterings of the animals’ eco-friendly fertilizer.
  • Dusty (he’s a Nubian goat, meaning he’s one of the larger of landscapers at AlleghenyGoatscape) was a bit pushy when he noticed that I had a bag of treats for him and his five companions (Diamond included in this count); Dusty would definitely be the person that has no issue with elbowing their way to the bar at a crowded pub or telling a customer support person just exactly how they feel and exactly what they want to makeup for poor service (in the short clip below², Dusty is at the head of the group as they pursue me).
  • The herd was very friendly and playful, Dusty included!
  • Diamond was especially docile and sweet. I’d definitely pick her as a supervisor.
  • This was a nice change of pace from my typical day. I was outside, away from technology (if only temporarily), and just laughing and interacting with animals and people. The sun was shining, and, aside from an occasional goat “bleh!” and the friendly conversation, the only sounds were birds chirping in the trees and the workers’ hooves crunching the foliage as they eagerly followed me with hopes of more snacks.
  • Overall, it was a great experience, and I look forward to helping out again!
  • Finally, I’d encourage you to take some time to volunteer with a local organization. This is a fun, low-stakes way to give back to the community, share your talents and expertise, and foster personal growth and friendships. You can get involved with a cause that you’re already passionate about or do an online search for local nonprofits and just pick one that sounds interesting or fun. Extra help is ALWAYS welcomed, and the best part is you don’t have to be an expert or even good at what you’re doing. So, get out there and get involved. I’m that you’ll be glad you did!

¹Along with giving more details on these benefits, the website has short bios about the hoofed landscaping crew and donkey site managers. There’s also information about this Gavin Deming guy who kinda runs the whole thing (I’ve met Gavin a few times, and he is intelligent, friendly, and very patient. It goes without saying that I respect and greatly appreciate the work he’s trying to do).

²I’m hoping to collect a few major awards with my cinematography work.

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