Goats getting gardening jobs at O’Hare Airport

GOATS http://www.flickr.com/photos/george_eastman_house/

Courtesy George Eastman House via Creative Commons

As early as a month from now, a herd of about 25 goats – along with a shepherd – will arrive at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport and be put to work munching unwanted vegetation (i.e. weeds) from up to 120 acres of airport-owned land that is difficult to get to with traditional landscaping equipment.

O’Hare already has beehives, an aeroponic vegetable and herb garden inside the terminal and a host of other green initiatives underway, but last September it put out a request for bids seeking “sustainable vegetation management grazing services.”

The two-year, $100,000 contract was awarded to Central Commissary Holdings, LLC, which operates a restaurant in the city and keeps a small herd of goats nearby.

O’Hare is not the first airport to employ goats. Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, San Francisco International Airport and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport have also hired goats and/or sheep to munch on unwanted vegetation.

And there are plenty of benefits:

Having goats eat weeds, poison ivy, and invasive plant species not only decreases landscape maintenance costs, reduces the use of heavy equipment and saves all that fuel that would be used for operating the mowing machinery, it provides an alternative to toxic herbicides and will be a fun way to draw attention to the airport’s environmental awareness.

Sheep, goats and bees at airports

Earlier this week, I wrote about Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport’s week-long pilot project to employ 100 sheep (plus a few goats) to munch on invasive vegetation on airport property. ATL’s program comes on the heels of SFO’s 8-year long use of goats to keep weeds at bay and a short-lived experiment a few years back at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

Now comes word that the Chicago Department of Aviation is hoping to hire some goats to do yard work as well.

That makes perfect sense for Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, which has been going green by leaps and bounds. In addition to an in-airport aeroponic garden that is providing herbs and vegetables to some airport restaurants and to a brand new farmer’s market-like stand in the airport, there’s an apiary ( a bee hive yard) on airport property as well.