Vt. Town Uses Sheep To Maintain Grass In Cemeteries

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Cash-strapped town governments have often neglected taking care of their cemeteries, leaving them with overgrown lots and crumbling grave markers. Now, one Chittenden County town is using sheep and goats to maintain grass in its sacred public spaces.

Stephen Brooks volunteers as the Chairman of the Charlotte Cemetery Commission. Brooks says the animals have reduced the need to mow lawns – or fertilize.

The idea, he says, was born out of necessity. "The craft in taking care of a cemetery includes not only the skills for landscaping but some budget skills to manage whatever small funds might be available from the town," Brooks says.

Using sheep to maintain cemeteries may sound bucolic, but Brooks says it’s rather complex. So he’s already thinking about how Charlotte might augment the economics of the town’s mowing system next season.

"If you add to the count of sheep and goats in a particular grass area, they’ll chew it down faster," says Brooks. "So there will be a need in the future to learn and moderate how many animals we actually pasture to keep the level of the grass down relative to the rate that it’s growing."

Brooks estimates the sheep and goats grazing in the cemeteries could save Charlotte about $2,000 in fuel costs this year. That may not seem like much, but Brooks says any money saved will go toward repairing headstones or fencing.

You can find select board minutes from Charlotte and government documents from 100 other Vermont cities and towns at VPR’s Public Post. While you’re there, post a comment or send a message on Twitter using the hash-tag #PublicPost to open a discussion about an issue in your town.

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