A Shrewsbury church needed to clear land, so it called in the goats


Many of John Connelly's employees lay in the shade one Saturday afternoon in Shrewsbury, slowly eating lunch, not putting forth a whole lot of effort. Only a few of the crew of 30-or-so workers ventured out into the sun to do their jobs, clearing the hill of brambles, ivy and other nuisance plants.

But that was fine with Connelly. After all, his employees are goats.

And in his opinion, goats are great employees.

"They don't complain, they work 24/7," said the Hummelstown man last week.

Connelly runs a company called Grazing Green Goats, through which he contracts out crews of goats to take on landscaping projects in hard-to-reach places — such as hills — in locations with particularly troublesome undergrowth.

"Goats are the perfect solution, because nothing stops them," he said.

Local eats: For the past couple of weeks, one squad of goats has been going to town on a grassy embankment in the first block of East Forrest Avenue in Shrewsbury, where Grace Fellowship Church has enlisted their services.

On the sunny Saturday, several of the fuzzy landscapers rambling among the brambles in the area outside of the shade continued to push eastward in their grazing.

Connelly said the goats are on about three to four acres of land, surrounded by a temporary, slightly electrified fence. The part by the trees, to the western side of the area, is now pretty clear, while a dense tangle of flora covers the land farther away.

Joy Sullivan, who attends the church, had driven over from her nearby home to watch the goats. She said the whole area had been covered in the thick vegetation, and the goats have done a great job chowing their way through the foliage. And they're cute, and fun to watch, she said, so people keep stopping to check out what's going on.

"It's become an attraction," she said.

As she spoke, two of the goats became a little bit frisky with each other.

"Ahhh! X-rated!" she said, using her hand to block her view of the animals.

The company: Connelly originally ran a traditional landscaping business in which human beings cut the grass, lay mulch and did all those normal kinds of jobs. But then he noticed how well the two goats on his farm cleared out all kinds of frustrating plants. His first landscaping business is still up and running, and he created Grazing Green Goats as a second business venture.

And things have gone well, he said. Connelly said he's had about 150 contracted jobs so far in the two and a half years this company's existed, and he has work out in front of him until October.

Then his goats will take the colder months off to knock goat boots and then eventually give birth in February to a bunch more kids. That will add more able bodies to Connelly's rapidly expanding goat force. Right now, he has about 80 goats and a flock of sheep, which performs similar duties.

Much of the business comes from people simply seeing the goats at work in someone's lawn and going to the website listed on the sign out in front of the job. That held true for this gig, he said.

"I've had two or three calls already" from other Yorkers, he said.

He declined to say how much this job was charging the church, but he said he charges a minimum of $175 per day and won't do jobs for less than $1,000.

Anyone interested in more information on the goats can visit grazinggreengoats.com or reach Connelly at 717-350-5204 or john@grazinggreengoats.com.

— Reach Sean Philip Cotter at scotter@yorkdispatch.com.