Last weekend on Riddle Hill Road, two Nigerian dwarf goats crunched over fallen leaves. They were not just taking a hike but munching away at green leaves, demonstrating how they can clear an area of unwanted brush and foliage.
Their owner, Meghan J. Hanawalt, will offer her goats for hire to Falmouth homeowners this spring with her company Get My Goats.
“A ‘goatrepreneur’ is what someone called me,” Ms. Hanawalt said.
Foraging goats offer an alternative to pesticides or machinery to get rid of unwanted underbrush or pesky plants such as poison ivy, cat briar, or bittersweet. Poison ivy does not affect goats as it does humans, causing a blistery rash. The reason is unclear.
When Ms. Hanawalt moved to Falmouth 11 years ago, she had to clear out large areas of poison ivy from her yard. She had concerns about spraying pesticide to kill the poison ivy growing back.
“I thought, ‘Why can’t we rent a goat?’ ” she said. “We don’t want to spread poison. This is a much kinder way.”
Ms. Hanawalt, who earned a master’s degree in business from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has served as business consultant for local companies but was interested in starting her own business. Two years ago she began working on a business plan.
“My schedule got freer, and I thought, ‘I am going to get goats,’ ” Ms. Hanawalt said.
Using goats to clear land, often referred to as goatscaping, has gained momentum in recent years in Massachusetts. In September, The Goatscaping Company, based in Plympton, cleared poison ivy and invasive plant species along service roads on the Cape Cod Canal in Bourne. Stacey J. Greaves of Centerville launched GOat Green Cape Cod in the past year, servicing residential homes, businesses and municipal and conservation lands.
“It is one of mankind’s oldest vegetation management methods,” Ms. Greaves said.
She said that there is an interest among certain individuals to go back to older methods to homestead their land.
Ms. Hanawalt found her goats for sale on the Facebook group Cape Cod Homesteaders. She brought her two goats, a white male with black and brownish spots and a chocolate-colored female, home about three weeks ago.
As part of her business plan she has been assessing how much area her goats can cover by taking field trips to various residential properties.
“My focus will be on the individual homeowner,” Ms. Hanawalt said.
Terry L. White of Riddle Hill Road, Ms. Hanawalt’s father-in-law, has helped test out the goats at his home, having them clear out underbrush.
“You can’t mow down trees and shrubs here,” he said. “The goats can go in difficult areas, and they don’t mind the stickers.”
However, there are some services the goats cannot do. They are not landscapers. For example, goatscaping does not work for a well-manicured lawn.
“Goats don’t want to graze,” Ms. Greaves said. “They reach up to eat things.”
Ms. Hanawalt’s two goats, who are 6 months old, can eat through a 20-by-20-foot space in half a day. However, they are not yet full grown. An adult Nigerian dwarf reaches about 75 pounds. She plans to rent out her goats by the half-day or full day.
“There will be no overnights,” Ms. Hanawalt said.
With each job she goes on-site to review the area to be cleared and sets up an electric fence to focus the goats in a certain area. Ms. Hanawalt stays at the work site to manage the goats and clear up the stems and roots that they do not eat. Her father-in-law, Mr. White will goatherd as well.
The service targets those customers interested in green business. Ms. Greaves said that a majority of her clients are older, with grandchildren, who are concerned about future environmental impacts.
Ms. Hanawalt has been spreading the news of her business by word of mouth and already has a list of customers for the spring. She may add more goats, but it depends on how the business grows.
Walking on the edge of her yard, she called them back using a bell. Ms. Hanawalt has not yet named the two goats; however, she has been taking suggestions from friends.
“One person suggested Crunch and Munch,” Ms. Hanawalt said.
Her father-in-law suggested Kabob and Curry.
“They are not going to be called that,” she said.
The two goats gathered at her feet along with her dog, Angus.
“Talk about loving your job,” she said.