Philly non-profit brings “goat grazing” to community garden, new path for volunteers

Did you know there’s a patch of grassy land to the right of the Vine Street Expressway when you drive into the city?

You probably wouldn’t have noticed it -- unless you happened to drive by Sunday morning, when a group of volunteers walked nine goats down the path.

“We hired them,” Rebecca Abgott said.

Abgott runs the Community Street Garden, tucked away in the woods underneath the expressway near Summer Street. It includes 26 plots for the community to garden and grow vegetables.

Recently, a portion of the land became overgrown with poison ivy and various weeds.

That’s where the goats come in.

“Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think we’d have goats down here,” Abgott said.

She connected with the Philly Goat Project. Director Karen Krivit, her daughter and a group of volunteers brought in the goats to get to work. It’s called goat grazing.

“A goat can eat 25 percent of its body weight every day in roughage and that could be things that people can’t even touch like poison ivy or brambles,” said Lily Sage, the assistant director at Philly Goat Project.

The community-based organization also does goat yoga and animal-assisted therapy.

The goats’ calming effect was immediately evident on a number of the volunteers.

“It’s a gift it’s an absolute gift,” Margy O’Neill said.

Margy’s son has autism and first started working with the goats through a paid internship at the Awbury Arboretum. When it ended, she says he missed the goats and they encouraged him to start to volunteer.

Now he does it every month and his parents often tag along.

“When he comes home from working with the goats he’s happy and relaxed, and always has stories to share,” O’Neill said. “When Karen texts me and says I have a job that I need Matt to do, there’s no greater reward to us than to know that other people see the value in our guy.”

For more information on the Philly Goat Project and how you can get involved, visit their website.