These Goats Can Do Your Yard Work, And Eat It Too

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The Goat Squad clears unwanted vegetation and creates space to plant native species, often bringing communities together along the way

Heighton family with their goats
The Heighton family – Charlie, 1, Pete and Lizzie – spend some quality time with the goats as they get to work on their land on Dairyland Road.

By Ellison Beaver| Photography by John Michael Simpson

The Goat Squad, founded 11 years ago by Diana Tetens, offers eco-friendly vegetation removal with a mighty gang of 25 to 40 goats eager to clean up even the most overgrown sites. The time it takes them to clear a site of unwanted vegetation like poison ivy, oak and sumac depends on the amount and density. Some plants get gobbled up quickly while other ones get eaten eventually, like a kid finally clearing their plate of vegetables. Recently, the goats have tackled areas surrounding the Chapel Hill Public Library and some public parks in Durham as well as residential yards. As part of the process, Diana and her two-legged team members later fill the newly bare land with sustainable native plants while raising awareness about the effects certain plants have on our ecosystems. “[We] strive to get the property into a state people can maintain and enjoy,” Diana says. As for the goats, she says they are always a hit and have a knack for bringing communities together. “There have been many instances where people say, ‘We’ve lived here for 20 years, and we never met the neighbors two houses down until the goats came,’” she says. And the goats don’t mind having an audience. She recalls one customer who loved them so much, she set up a workspace outside, giving “working from home” a whole new meaning.

Diana holding a goat
Diana, pictured here with Little Stewart, says that the goats love to eat plants such as English ivy, kudzu, wisteria, briars and blackberries.

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Chapel Hill Mag Intern

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