Monday, July 2, 2007

Munchin' mowers of Munchen

Some of you know that I have a ‘goat bulletin’ in my office and you’ve heard me toss around the idea of utilizing a herd of goats to maintain ‘clean and green’ land in Philadelphia. I make no claims that this is a new and unique idea - it’s as old as civilization itself. Some of you even indulge me in imagining scenarios, others have offered room and board for the goats, and I even have a ‘back of a napkin’ business plan that a Wharton MBA grad once made up for me!

Meet Sigfried Pinpi, an environmental engineer working for the Autobahn in Munich and David the shepherd. Sigfried has developed and implemented a massive landscape maintenance program utilizing sheep and goats to maintain the slopes of highways along Munich’s main highway routes, a total of 200 hectares (about 500 acres). This is an award winning program that is now in it's 12th year. It was great to get a sense of how it the program works, and I have a new sense of how complex it can all be. Both Sigfried and David spend a great deal of time figuring out sheep and goat safety, the linked system of grazing areas, and the budget. Over the last 12 years, the cost savings have been tremendous, but so have the challenges and complexities. I had no idea that one would have to get so involved with the lives of the goats and sheep - something to pause on. Then, finding the right shepherd is key - in an urban area someone who can deal with lots of homeowners, make sure the herd stays in the right place, making sure that the babies born along the way are cared for, all these things make for a full-time and demanding life for David.

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