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How a herd of goats is helping save San Francisco from wildfires

San Francisco is a city known for its fine dining, and this spring, even the land itself is on the menu.

A herd of goats is let loose on city fields and hillsides to chew on the once-sprouting green grass. An unusually wet winter. In the summer, that grass can turn dry and brown and become fuel for wildfires.

Genevieve Church, executive director of City Grazing and the self-described “most ardent goat herder on the planet,” told CBS News that her nonprofit organization took a herd of 128 goats across San Francisco and the surrounding Bay Area to limit fires. Danger City Grazing operates a goat grazing program and Coordinate with local groups.

Besides mowing all the grass they can reach, the goats also serve an educational purpose. At Malcolm X Academy, an elementary school, an important lesson they teach is sustainability, said San Francisco Unified School District landscape manager Rebecca Polan. Around 25 goats are grazing near the school. It takes them about a week to clear the area.

“Students come here and see it and it’s a real example of what we do and why we do it,” Pollon said. “It’s really a circular ecosystem. Goats eat grass and they digest the grass and their waste is really great for the soil, which helps with erosion. So in the long run, instead of slowly eroding the land, we’re regenerating the land.”


Goats munching on grass on a San Francisco hillside.

CBS Saturday Morning

School social worker Sarah Aldama said it’s not often that a school child gets the opportunity to spend time with wild animals. The average student at the school comes from a low-income family, Aldama said, and children are typically born and raised in multigenerational families in the community. Attendance and consistency can be a problem, but keeping goats in the yard can help with that problem, if only for a few days.

“They’re definitely excited to be here with the goats,” Aldama said.

Kids love to interact with the goats, and the animals are always hungry, so they come close to the fence and check on the kids.

“Who knows what a baby might throw through the fence? (Goats) are always opportunistic little creatures,” Church said fondly.

While goats love to see what kids can offer, they won’t actually eat everything they’re handed.

“They don’t like burritos,” Church said. “People sometimes like to try to feed them leftovers. We ask: please don’t feed the goats!”

With plenty of grass to eat, and an audience of fans, this might just be a goat’s dream field.

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John Blackstone

John Blackstone

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