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Goats grazing invasives?

Waupaca to study proposal

By Angie Landsverk

The owners of a 34-acre site in the city of Waupaca want to use goats and horses to reduce the invasive plants on their property.

Kari Esbensen and Russ Butkiewicz propose using up to nine goats and two horses for rotational grazing.

They presented their idea to the city’s Plan Commission last month.

“Overall, our goal is to demonstrate how small-scale agriculture would work in an urban setting,” Butkiewicz said.

Their property forms the city’s northeastern boundary with the town of Waupaca.

The land across the road is agriculture, Esbensen said.

The couple’s property is near Waupaca Foundry’s Plant 2/3.

Esbensen said they want a long-term management plan for their property, and asked the Plan Commission to research how this idea works in other places.

“I think we found at least 25 communities around the country doing this,” she said.

Members of the commission want city staff to look into it.

Brennan Kane, Waupaca’s director of community and economic development, told the commission he will get something back to it within 45 to 60 days.

“Great. It would be nice to get it started before the next growing season,” Esbensen said.

The property is located off of Constance Road and includes the former 22-acre Oz Natural Area parcel.

The city returned the parcel to Esbensen and Butkiewicz last spring, at their request.

They had donated the property to the city about 20 years ago for the creation of the natural area.

In September 2017, they formally requested the return of the land, citing years of legal disputes, discussion and negotiation with the city and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

Following the return of the land to them, they rejoined it to the almost 13-acre parcel they retained at the time of their donation.

They planned to then detach the parcel from the city and request the town of Waupaca accept it, which is where the property was prior to their donation.

That was because of their desire to use goats to manage invasive plants on their property.

However, during last spring’s annual meeting in the town of Waupaca, those in attendance voted not to accept the property back into the town.

As a result, the property remains in the city.

“We’ve been working on the property, trying to reduce the invasives,” Butkiewicz told the Plan Commission.

They have done some chemical treatment, but long term want to use a more sustainable model on the property, he said.

That is why they propose using goats and horses for rotational grazing on it.

Butkiewicz said it could also be used as a demonstration for sustainable urban agriculture.

They presented letters of support from neighboring property owners.

Esbensen said they are already using sustainable practices on the hobby farm they own near Ogdensburg.

They want to use those same practices, which they found to be successful on their farm property, on their city parcel.

She said it could be a site where others also learn about such practices.

“It’s continuing the education mission we always had for it,” Esbensen said of the parcel.

Butkiewicz said they would also like to temporarily bring up to 30 goats on the property to overgraze where there are heavy amounts of invasive plants.

“There are companies out there that do that kind of thing,” he said in regard to renting goats for short periods of time.


Image credit: Can Stock Photography

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