Weed-Whacking Goats Will Work For Food

A goat munching some brush in a Los Angeles park. i i

Goats deployed by the Community Redevelopment Agency of Los Angeles have been hired since 2008 to crop a hillside city park in Bunker Hill. Ric Francis/AP hide caption

itoggle caption Ric Francis/AP
A goat munching some brush in a Los Angeles park.

Goats deployed by the Community Redevelopment Agency of Los Angeles have been hired since 2008 to crop a hillside city park in Bunker Hill.

Ric Francis/AP

The peace of an otherwise quiet summer weekend is often muddled by the sound of lawn mowers and leaf blowers. In Los Angeles’ business district, an old-fashioned method of ground control provides an alternative soundtrack — the munching of goats.

In a steep hillside city park on Bunker Hill, right next to the world’s shortest railway, 120 goats are about to be deployed. "Oh my gosh, they're so cute," Nate Giddings says as he makes his way to work in a nearby skyscraper.

There are baby goats and mama goats, but they're all hungry goats. This natural landscaping crew was trucked in from a farm in San Diego. Their assignment: mowing down the unruly growth of brush on these 2 1/2 acres.

"I've never seen them used for this," Giddings says. "I think it's hysterical."

The Community Redevelopment Agency of Los Angeles thinks it's smart — not to mention ecological. This is the third year in a row the agency has hired a herd to tend this unwieldy land.

The goats belong to Johnny Gonzalez, who says they get an undeserved bad rap. "Goats are great survivalists," he says. "They learn to survive on meager means, so people tend to think of them as doing something destructive. But the goats allow the natural plants to take hold and pretty much do away with all the invasive weeds and grasses."

They also entertain thousands of passersby in the process.

For these few days, Bunker Hill has become a mix of the fiercely urban and charmingly bucolic. Just ask Finney, one of several homeless men who sleep here. Today, he's right beside where the goats are working, and he likes how they make the big, busy city more human.

"They make everybody smile. Normally people come and go here to the Metro. It's so nice to see people stopping and smiling and laughing," he says. "It creates this kind of warmth, this unity. People talk about it, you know."

And the goats save the city $3,000 over the environmentally unfriendly alternative of weed killers and weed whackers.

But no matter how good a job they do, the goats won't have this gig forever — the site is slated to be developed into an office tower.

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