A pack of woolly beasts descended upon Foggy Bottom Monday in a show of horticultural power.
Members of GroW Garden invited a small flock of about 10 sheep to graze on the garden’s weeds in an effort to maintain the land in a sustainable manner.
Nicholas Smaldone, a GroW manager and senior studying international environment studies and English, said members of the community garden used their student organization budget to rent sheep from Lamb Mowers, a company that offers sheep for rent to feed on private spaces. Smaldone said the sheep chew down the ground cover of weeds and fertilize the soil from their droppings, sustainably integrating animals into a city campus.
Smaldone said Lamb Mowers founder Cory Suter said at least five sheep were unable to graze on the community garden because they were close to giving birth, which is common among female sheep nearing the spring. Smaldone said despite this trend, the sheep “did a number” on the GroW Garden’s weeds.
“Especially in the spring, when we’re getting ready for the growing season and the fall, when we’re kind of putting the gardens to bed, animals, in general, can play a huge, beneficial part in our process,” Smaldone said.
Smaldone said Grow Garden members sought out a way to get animals more involved in their garden “a few months ago” because sustainable agriculture and “agroecological” models point to the integration of plants and animals in a food system.
“We wanted to try and experiment,” Smaldone said. “We wanted to try to imagine a more sustainable city.”
Smaldone said the organization hopes to hire the sheep again and extend their grazing to other green spaces on campus, but their finances are “limited.” Smaldone said he hoped the University’s “very-good reception” of the event – with students forming a crowd to see the sheep outside the garden – may lead to GW officials taking up the cost in the future.
He said despite GroW Garden not advertising the sheep’s incoming presence to campus, many students were “very happy” to see the sheep. He said it’s important to remember that the sheep are there for a certain purpose, not for an anti-stress petting zoo during exams.
“I like to reiterate that this was not a therapy thing,” Smaldone said. “This was not a midterm thing. This was a sustainability thing.”
This article appeared in the March 9, 2023 issue of the Hatchet.