By: Sophia Naughton, Staff Writer & Kayla DuBose, Contributing Writer
Veronica Cassilly, a goat herder at Harmony Church Farm, gathered her 17 goats onto a trailer for their annual trek to Towson University’s (TU) campus to munch their way through the Glen Arboretum on Sept. 20, 21, 24 and 25.
Covering a half-acre of the area, the goats, who usually graze the Glen for three days, returned for a bonus fourth day on the 25th. In the woods, the goats serve as a protective measure against the invasive species that threaten native plants. This is their sixth annual appearance on campus with the exception of 2020 due to the pandemic.
Professor Emeritus and member of the Board of Directors of Glen Arboretum, James Hull, said there were three options to tackle this problem: chemical sprays, tractors or goats.
Chemicals cause groundwater pollution and tractors cause erosion and destroy native animals and their habitats. The goats are not only friendly to TU students but friendly to the environment too.
“You know it’s funny, people have been using goats to clear landscapes for thousands of years,” said Cassilly. “People act like this is some new rocket science. This is what people have done for thousands and thousands of years. Fifty years ago every farmer had a couple of goats for exactly that reason; to maintain their yard, their forests, their pastures and now they’ve reverted to spraying. So, it’s kinda something we need to go back to because goats don’t cause water pollution.”
BGE funds the restoration project in the Glen and students are either employed or volunteer to help with these efforts. Previously, students attempted to clear the invasive species but were met with painful bee stings from ground-dwelling bees.
“Goats can climb on steep areas, they can go where mowers can’t go, they can go in wet areas where you would never take equipment, they fertilize the soil because they poop constantly and they have a very high metabolism so they’re just a very well-suited animal for this job,” said Cassilly.
Sarah Stiles, a freshman Molecular Biology major, not only sees viewing the goats as a stress reliever, but a great part of campus.
“I learned that they’re trying to get rid of the invasive species so that we can plant all the native trees in Maryland here, which I think is really interesting and I think would be a really cool part of this university,” Stiles said.
According to Hull, student involvement in the Glen restoration project provides students with an opportunity for ownership. He wants students to be able to come back and show their kids and grandkids the tree they planted.
“I want in my small way to increase your connection with this campus,” said Hull. “I’m student-centered on this thing, you’re the reason I’m here.”
To get involved in the Glen Arboretum restoration project, contact Hull at firstname.lastname@example.org. To find more information about the Glen Arboretum, visit Towson’s website. For more information on the goats at Harmony Church Farm visit their website.