What qualifies a person for Pittsburgher of the Year? As this was City Paper’s inaugural run, it took our staff some time to iron out what qualities we were looking for. Should it be a pattern of philanthropy and good will? Is it winning hockey games? Does the winner have to live in Pittsburgh, or are expats eligible too? Should the winner be famous, or should the award be used to amplify the work of an unappreciated Pittsburgher? Is it a moral issue, or just a question of influence?
While there was plenty of back and forth about those issues, it was agreed that the person should be a person. But there was one group that deserves a small measure of recognition, a group that has impacted different parts of the city, from Brighton Heights to the South Side, and looked adorable while doing it.
The idea to nominate the goats of Allegheny GoatScape came from WYEP morning host Joey Spehar. Last month, we were recording our weekly Friday feature — if you don’t listen, please do; it’s objectively excellent — and discussing potentials for the award. We floated names like Charlie Batch, Sally Wiggin, Bill Peduto, Weird Paul and Darieth Chisolm. I suggested Joey nominate himself, and he said, “What about those goats?” I was immediately 100 percent in.
If you’re lost, here’s a little background: Allegheny GoatScape is a nonprofit that cleans up overgrown areas of Pittsburgh using a herd of grazing goats. It grew out of another goatscaping outfit called Steel City Grazers. Currently, the crew consists of Reuben, Ozark, Angel Face, Twinsie, Kama, Cowboy, Wimpy, Favourite, Butter Bailey, Baby and a donkey named Hobo. Please go to alleghenygoatscape.org for a full rundown of their personalities.
There are a number of reasons why goats are uniquely gifted at clearing vegetation, but basically it breaks down that the process is more efficient and eco-friendly than traditional options.
Plus, as Allegheny GoatScape executive director Gavin Deming told CP earlier this year, “As castrated males, they have no other function really except for to be eaten or to eat. We want to make sure that these guys are not eaten, but are eating.”
That sentence alone nabbed my vote, but here are five more reasons the goats of GoatScape deserve recognition.
- The rising popularity of goatscaping represents another reason to feel good about Pittsburgh in 2017. We still have a way to go and yes, the “old meets new” cliché in Pittsburgh is a little tiring. But efforts to improve publicly accessible community spaces through environmentally friendly means should be applauded.
- The process is wicked efficient. There are no herbicides involved, no machines requiring fuel, and the goats naturally fertilize the soil, all while protecting desired regional flora from pesky invasive species.
- Amazon already has a goatscaping program. Not that I want to encourage Amazon’s HQ2 campaign — I do not — but for those who do, Pittsburgh’s goat scene might be something to tout to our potential Northwestern overlords. Amazon’s Japan offices got in the goat game in 2013, replete with employee-ID cards for each critter, and its home Seattle office followed suit in 2015 (no surprise, since Seattle was an early adopter of goatscaping).
- Goats are apolitical. It’s hard to please everybody when it comes to award season, but goats are generally pretty well regarded (that’s not based on any research, I just like goats and assume everyone else does too).
- And finally, goats are cool. They have four stomachs. They were one of the first animals to be domesticated, some scientists believe, as many as 10,000 years ago. Goats are known to have regional accents, so the bleats and bahhs sound different depending on the hometown. We should take care of them. As ethical means of farming are gaining popularity nationwide, it’s nice to see Pittsburgh embracing a practice that benefits its people and places, while providing a good life to these animals. It’s a win-win.
Kudos, Pittsburgh goats.