By Nancy Hahn
Goats from Five Fridges Farm in Wheat Ridge are working away from their farm this month. On June 3, eight male goats were walked on leashes from the farm, at 11100 W. 38th Ave., to Lewis Meadows Park, at Union Street and 32nd Avenue. Why only male goats? A mixed group of males and females can cause the males to get a little rowdy. If the group is only males, they are all contented co-workers. The goats were led to a one-acre fenced area in the park. The fence was provided by Wheat Ridge Parks, Forestry, and Open Space; who have worked with Five Fridges for four years on similar projects. Inside the fence, there are two portable goat houses and lots of fresh water. The goat houses provide, both, a place to sleep and shade from the sun. The goats were provided with the houses and water, but their food will be only what the field provides.
After the goats arrived, neighbors and other goat-lovers had a chance to meet the goats from10 a.m. to noon. Neighbors learned that goats love eating nutrition-rich weeds. Dr. Amanda Weaver, from Five Fridges Farm, explained that when goats eat the weeds, they completely break down the seed pod. It will not have any chance to grow. With horses, for example, the seeds can pass through the horse’s body without damage and then grow. Goats will graze and poop, fertilizing the ground. The goats will spend several weeks in the one-acre fenced off area of the park, cleaning up invasive weeds and trimming the grass. Rather than tall grass up to several feet, the goats trim it to about four inches. After the goats worked for 10 days, the difference was already quite noticeable.
The goats are very popular with the neighbors around Lewis Meadows. Many visitors stop by each day to visit and watch the goats. Children, especially, love to talk to them and pull up some weeds from outside the fence to toss to them. The goats are not only popular with children, though. A number of neighbors have begun taking a walk to visit the goats each day. “It just gives you a good feeling. It reminds you of the country and less complicated times,” said one gentleman-neighbor.
Putting the goats to work in the community is one possible solution to problems of invasive weeds or overgrown areas that are difficult to mow. Dr. Weaver, also, wanted to demonstrate a solution that doesn’t involve chemical weed killers that can be so damaging to the environment. Previously, the goats had cleaned up areas along 38th Avenue. Margaret Paget, Forestry and Open Spaces Supervisor of Wheat Ridge and Dr. Amanda Weaver, CU Denver senior instructor of Urban Geography, also, an instructor at the University of Denver with a doctorate in urban economic agriculture geography, discussed the problem. Many roadside spaces on 38th Avenue were full of weeds but very difficult to mow. Dr. Weaver was uncomfortable with the idea of dangerous chemical weed-killers so close to her farm. Supervisor Paget and Dr. Weaver developed the idea of using the goats. The goats loved eating the weeds, so everyone benefitted. Last summer, goats were used to remove weeds from some of the grassy areas around the Wheat Ridge Recreation Center at 4005 Kipling St., also.
The goats are not the only group at Five Fridges that works outside the farm. Also, hard at work for both Five Fridges and the surrounding area are 150,000 new honey bees. The farm has always had bees, not only for their honey but for their importance as pollinators. The Butterfly Pavilion, this spring joined with Five Fridges to insure that the whole area has a healthy bee population. Bees are so very necessary as pollinators. The Butterfly Pavilion contributed the bees and 23 new beehives. The population of bees will increase by 10 times once it is established. Experts from the Butterfly Pavilion will care for the hives. The Butterfly Pavilion initiated this project as part of PACE, Pollinator Awareness through Conservation and Education. The goal is teach the importance of pollinators and to support pollinator habitats all across Colorado.
Not only does Five Fridges Farm share its workers with the community. It, also, invites the community in. Five Fridges Farm is a working urban farm in Wheat Ridge with chickens, turkeys, beehives, fields of vegetables growing, and goats. Many members of the community enjoy classes, tastings, and demonstration at the farm. The farm sells many fresh food products produced there including eggs, honey, and fresh vegetables. There are, also, Thanksgiving turkeys and other meat products. Milk, cheese, and yogurt from the goats are available, too. In addition, Dr. Weaver sees the farm as an education for her students, too. For Dr. Weaver, the farm is a real-life way for students to connect their studies to actual urban agriculture. Five Fridges is a working urban farm, a classroom, and a laboratory.
Find out more on the Five Fridges Farm Facebook page or visit www.5fridgesfarm.com.