Blaine sophomore a pioneer in green land clearing
By Tara Nelson
Blaine high school principal Dan Newel was at first hesitant when one of his high school students – then a freshman – came to him wanting to bring goats on campus.
That’s right, goats.
Jen Mallahan, now a sophomore, was proposing bringing a group of high quality show goats to help clear an 11,000-square foot patch of blackberry bushes lining the east side of the school’s soccer feild.
Mallahan was looking for a project as part of her membership in Students With a Purpose (S.W.A.P.) as well as a way to fulfill her requirements for a junior project.
A member of Future Farmers of America, Mallahan said she also liked the idea of working with animals and presenting an example of an environmentally-friendly business practice.
“We could have cleared it in a day but there is a drainage ditch right by it and I didn’t want to use pesticides or herbicides,” she said. “That and I love little creatures so it seemed like the perfect solution. The fence is even solar powered.”
The goats are owned by Bellingham residents Kevin and Ashley Lutton, and can typically clear up to several hundred square yards in a period of two weeks – without the use of harsh pesticides or noisy equipment.
For approximately $400 to $800, the Luttons set up a solar-powered electric fence around the area to be cleared and provide daily pick and delivery of the goats.
The basic fee is $100 per set-up and an additional 22 cents per square yard or $1,000 per acre. For an extra fee, the Luttons can install a temporary shelter to keep the goats out of the wind and rain as they are sensitive to such exposure.
The Lutton’s had started their business (called Green Goat Clearing) last year. They had the idea after friends kept asking to borrow the goats to friends to clear unsightly patches of bramble bushes on their property.
“That, and we’ve always been into the environment and animals in general,” Ashley Lutton said. “We always knew we would own a business. We just needed to find one that was right for us.”
Lutton said she fell in love with goats when a friend – Grace Lukens of Grace Harbor Farms on Birch Bay-Lynden Road – gave her an extra goat. From there, things just snowballed, she said. The business also helps pay the enormous cost of feeding an animal that never quite seems to get full.
“They really are mean, green eating machines,” she said.
Back at Blaine high school, Mallahan has had to schedule in time between classes and after school to check on the baby goats.
And although Newel said the process has taken a little longer than expected as recent inclement weather has interrupted the goats’ work schedules, he is encouraged by the learning both in terms of working with local government (Mallahan had to obtain permission from Blaine City Council last year) and new environmentally-friendly ways of doing business.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity for students to it’s definitely added a flair of excitement for our students as we’ve never had goats on campus before,” he said. “She took the incentive to do something that no one has ever done here before and that’s just cool.”
When asked if the high school saved money using goats instead of hiring landscaping contractors, Newel said he was unsure. The arrangement cost the school district approximately $430.
“It probably didn’t save us much money in the long run because if not for her, it probably would have stayed that way,” he said. “But she’s done a great job. It took her a year to convince me to go forward with the program, it was a learning experience for her and it was a learning experience for us. She did it the right way. She also learned what governmental burueacracy is all about.”
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