The Friends of the Long Pond Greenbelt have spent more than nine years trying to keep invasive weeds out of the 40-acre Vineyard Field behind the South Fork Natural History Museum in Bridgehampton, which has proved a difficult task since frequent mowings of the field could hurt the turtles and salamanders that call the Long Pond bioregion home.
This summer, they’re trying a new tack. A herd of six goats from Rhinebeck, NY will spend the summer munching on autumn olive, mile-a-minute weed and garlic mustard in the field, in the hopes that they’ll defoliate the invasive species to the point where they’ll just give up.
Friends of the Long Pond Greenbelt President Dai Dayton helped to track down goat herders Annlilita and Larry Cihanek of Rhinebeck, whose Green Goats have been pressed into service in parks throughout New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. They are planning to bring their goats to Bridgehampton for the summer sometime in June.
“I’d been reading about invasives and the idea of goats controlling them,” said Ms. Dayton this week. “We have mile-a-minute weed, garlic mustard, we have it all in terms of invasive species. The olive is just so aggressive. It’s coming back in all the time.”
“Because of the turtles and reptiles, we can’t mow the field all summer,” she added. “That gives the olive a chance to get ahead of them. There are a lot of native grasses in field, and we’re hoping the native seedbed is still there and will come back. We will always have pressure from olive, because birds move seeds around from other places. We’re committed to this project for 15 years, and we’re more than halfway through. We’d love to see them totally eradicated.”
Southampton Town agreed in late February to provide $3,500 for the goats’ services and the Friends of the Long Pond Greenbelt have contributed $1,200 for a six-acre moveable fence, which will keep the goats at work in one section of the field until they are finished grazing it. Ms. Dayton estimates they’ll need about $3,000 more to get the project off the ground, which includes the cost of building a shelter for the goats.
Volunteers will check on the goats every day to make sure they have water, and the staff at the South Fork Natural History Museum, which overlooks the field, have also agreed to keep an eye on them.
The town board enthusiastically and unanimously approved the expenditure on Feb. 27, joking that they’d like to see the town brand its own cheese from the goats’ milk.
Ms. Dayton doubts these goats will be in the cheese business. They’re here to munch, she said, not to be milked.
The Friends of the Long Pond Greenbelt are welcoming donations for the project. More information on their work is online here.
Below is a video of some of the goats in action.