The goats are coming!

Sister Jacqueline clears invasive species from monastery grounds

A heard of goats along with their goatherd from nearby Buffalo, NY, will be helping the Benedictine sisters live into one aspect of their Corporate Commitment: As Benedictine Sisters of Erie we commit ourselves to be a healing presence and prophetic witness for peace and justice by actively addressing the climate crisis and the rights of women and children.

The goats will clear land on the community's Glinodo grounds that has become overrun by invasive species, such as Japanese knotweed, invasive honeysuckle, and multiflora rose which is threatening the health of the trees and the creek, and preventing people from enjoying walks in the woods. 

Sister Jacqueline Sanchez-Small (pictured here), who spent much of her novitiate (when the monastery was also under covid lock-down) in the woods clearing out multiflora rose vines and who is also a member of the community's Care for the Earth committee, began researching ways to save the forest without doing additional damage. Pesticides or heavy machinery were not the answer. While she could probably have recruited others to help her remove the plants, it is slow, heavy, and challenging work. But not if you're a goat.

She learned that there are organizations who provide goats for just this purpose. And then she found Let's Goat Buffalo. "I’m so glad that we’re able to welcome Let’s Goat Buffalo. This is a creative, natural way to manage our land and improve its health, and it’s so interesting how they bring together a traditional practice like goat herding with modern-day technology, like solar-powered electric fences. That combination of the old and new is really a very Benedictine approach. I’m excited to see how this affects the land at Glinodo, and to see our sisters and friends interact with the goats!" Sister Jacqueline says.

More than a year in the planning, the project begins when the goats and goatherd arrive at the monastery on Sunday, July 17. Part of the process involved seeking partners to help fund this project. Development Associate Michelle Basista says, "the Benedictine Sisters are pleased to partner with the John M. & Gertrude E. Petersen Fund of the Erie Community Foundation to fund the entirety of this unique project."

The invasive species overtake the native plant population, killing off trees by sucking up the water and covering the leaves with their own, blocking their ability to take in nutrients from the sun. Weakened by these invasive species, the trees die off, which worsens the soil health, removes the habitats of animals, makes the trails difficult to access, and speeds up the erosion of the creek. 

Goats offer a biological, rather than chemical or mechanical, solution to the problem. After just four weeks of grazing, the goats will have the trails significantly more accessible to those who want to use them, and the remaining invasive species will be manageable enough that volunteers and sisters can manually remove roots and prevent them from spreading again. The goats' digestive systems have the advantage of processing what they eat such a way that any chance of reseeding from excrement is impossible. It is a win-win solution.

An extra bonus is that Let’s Goat Buffalo's herd is comprised of goats that are unsuitable for farm life, either due to age or because of a medical issue--they are rescue goats. Partnering with this particular organization helps support the goats' second chance to live a productive life. If you visit the Let's Goat Buffalo web page, you can meet their goats and read their profiles. 

Thus, the Let's Goat Buffalo bus/barn plus goats and goatherd will arrive on Sunday. The front part of the bus has been refurbished as a tight but sufficient living quarters for the goatherd. The back half of the bus is the barn where the goats spend their nights. During the day, they are kept safe by means of a solar-charged fence which is moved as grazing clears an area. We'll introduce you to all of them by name and with photos once they get here.

Our goat guests will be with us clearing the land for the next month. During that time we'll be sharing photos and posts, monitoring progress, and generally having fun with this new experience. We'll be posting on our website and on our Facebook and Instagram pages. Enjoy this time with us.