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Poison ivy won't scare away historic site's 'fearless' new groundskeepers

'The goats joined the team this past winter and have been tasked with grazing certain key sections of the (Martyrs') Shrine grounds,' says director

The Martyrs’ Shrine in the Midland area is now home to some new special friends, albeit they’re not necessarily congregants or those on a pilgrimage to the beloved site.

The highly motivated group are a herd of goats, who have been quite adept at eating their way across the Shrine’s tranquil grounds.

“The goats joined the team this past winter and have been tasked with grazing certain key sections of the Shrine grounds,” Martyrs’ Shrine director Father John O’Brien tells Village Media.

“Their main contribution is their unique ability to consume plants and weeds – including poison ivy – that have been growing up around the fence lines and edges of the property. So far, they have been fearless consumers of the feared herb," he says. 

And, so far, area residents seem to appreciate the Shrine’s move.

Midland resident Frieda Baldwin says her hometown of Ghent, Belgium, has been using goats for years in parks and on river banks.

“This is wonderful,” she says. “I love to see goats taking care of lawns.”

Nancy Mosely, a retired schoolteacher and farmer, says the Shrine deserves kudos for its “fantastic idea.”

“I saw them today and thought now there’s someone who has used creative thoughts to solve a need in an eco-friendly way.”

O’Brien says the goats offer a number of benefits.

“Of course, there’s the ‘green’ value that allows us to avoid herbicides and have the natural goat manure that enriches the soil,” he explains.

The goats have a portable pen that allows the Shrine’s other grounds crew to move them around the property to key spots needing attention.

Adds O’Brien: “Visitors to the Shrine may happen upon them in various places and say hello.”

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Andrew Philips

About the Author: Andrew Philips

Editor Andrew Philips is a multiple award-winning journalist whose writing has appeared in some of the country‚Äôs most respected news outlets. Originally from Midland, Philips returned to the area from Québec City a decade ago.
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