Paris has embraced the idea of “eco-grazing,” hiring four black Ouessant ewes to graze the area around the archives building in the 19th Arrondissement. The ewes arrived in early April to begin their duties for the season.
The Ouessant breed hails from the small island of the same name in Brittany. These black sheep were originally bred to supply the black clothing worn by married women in rural, southern Europe, but are now rare. They are a hardy breed that only grows to about two feet in height, making them ideal for city life.
The City of Paris, led by Mayor Bertrand Delanoë and his commitment to environmentally friendly projects within the city, decided on using the small flock of sheep in order to reduce pollution and noise caused by mowing, as well as a gimmick to lure visitors to the archives building to see these furry little lawnmowers perform their grazing tasks. If all goes well, this experiment could lead to more “eco-grazing” around more notable attractions, like the Eiffel Tower.
The example provided by the City of Paris should be modeled right here in Chester County—a community still hanging on to its farming roots, blessed with an abundance of lush, green spaces. Using sheep and goats to maintain grassy areas makes a lot of economical, practical, and ecological sense. Both species love to eat invasive plants like poison ivy, multiflora rose, bittersweet, and mile-a-minute, reducing insidious plant species and the need for herbicides. They also greatly reduce the need to mow, decreasing fuel expenses and pollution. While grazing, sheep and goats naturally fertilize the area, which reduces the need for fertilizers and chemical additives. Once the summer season is over, and the grasses and vegetation have disappeared, these grazers can then be used for winter meat, negating the need for winter shelter and feed.
Think about all of the green, grassy spaces that emerge in April: at schools, along highways, in parks, around corporate centers, and in every corner of the county. These large public and private spaces use countless man hours and fuels to maintain from April through October, but sheep and goats would do it for free and love every second of their labors, while providing the public entertainment and something cute to look at. With a little vision, entrepreneurship, and out-of-the-box thinking, the Chester County area could make a positive change that would both promote farming and environmental responsibility.