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Capitalist Weed Control

Photo by the FCPA BlogLabor Day, 2011

Note to readers: We’re off topic, but our subject is a capitalist solution we really like.

For the past few weeks, sixty three goats have been ‘working’ at our place in central Virginia. They belong to Jace Goodling, a former house builder who lives in the next county.

A few years ago, Jace had the idea for Goat Busters. His one hundred eighty animals, he said, “are the most environmentally sensitive method to clear land or control invasive species vegetation ever.”

Our target was kudzu — a climbing, coiling, and trailing vine. It was imported from Japan to help control roadside erosion. But it ended up overwhelming the local flora. It climbs trees, strangles them, and eventually pulls them down. For good reason it’s called “the vine that ate the South.”

Removing kudzu is nearly impossible. Pulling it out by hand, we’ve learned, always ends in defeat for the puller. And spraying with poison spoils everything, including the local water supply.

But goats love the stuff. They’ll also eat poison ivy, privet, honeysuckle, and all types of weeds.

Jace put a fence around the land to be cleared, hooked it up to a car battery, and let the goats go to work. “Goats are born hungry,” he said. That’s true. During daylight they’re always eating. After just a couple of hours, you could see progress in an area the size of a football field.

The sixty three goats with us cleared about five acres in three weeks and will finish the last section today or tomorrow. The ground is shaved clean, trunks of big trees are vine free, and a few rock faces are uncovered for the first time in thirty years.

Hurray for the goats.

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