Goats were unleashed at The Historic Congressional Cemetery today.
Taking a page from Los Angeles’s playbook, the cemetery has hired goats to eat up one and a half acres of overgrowth at the edge of its lot–a stretch of land behind a chain-link fence that borders the Anacostia River, where trees have been weighed down by invasive ivy and weeds.
Cemetery organizers worry that the trees will die, fall, and damage headstones. As a remedy, they’re paying $4,000 to Eco-Goats, a Davidsonville, Md., farm that rents out its goats for ecologically sustainable grazing–in other words, relatively cheap labor for anyone badly in need of weeding.
If all goes to plan, 60-70 goats will have ravaged the cemetery foliage by next Tuesday. They’ll stay 24 hours a day, chomping on vegetation for the next six days straight.
Brian Knox, who runs Eco-Goats, released 25 of them into the cemetery forest just after 10 a.m. The goats rushed back into their trailer, spooked by TV cameras and still photographers, and had to be coaxed back out.
A few spectators were on hand. Small children peered through the chain-link fence and giggled.
“Every goat’s got its own personality, and out of the hundred plus that we have on the farm, there’s only a handful that I really won’t work with,” Knox said.
The goats will strip the area of overgrowth up to 7 feet off the ground, eating just about everything but the trees, Knox told ABC News. They aren’t grazing among the headstones. Rather, the goats are penned in a strip of forested land about 15 yards deep, between the chain-link at the edge of the cemetery and an electric fence set up by Knox, powered by solar panels.
Founded in 1807 and located 10 blocks east of Eastern Market, the cemetery is not officially connected to Congress. It’s owned by nearby Christ Church and preserved by the nonprofit Association for the Preservation of The Historic Congressional Cemetery, which takes private donations for the upkeep.
The cemetery is home to nearly 200 congressmen and their families. Famed FBI director J. Edgar Hoover is buried there.
The goats are cheaper than manual labor to clear the area, and they’re cheaper than pesticides to kill invasive weeds, said Paul Williams, president of the nonprofit.
“Rather than use herbicides and pesticides and spray this whole area,” Williams said, “we really wanted to put the money toward something more eco friendly.”
This post has been updated.