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Cemetery Goats Eat Weeds, Save Planet

A burial place in Washington, D.C. is using goats instead of poison to remove weeds.

Congressional Cemetery, which opened in the early 1800s, is near Capitol Hill. Capitol Hill is where important buildings and business of U.S. government are located.

Many former members of the U.S. House and Senate are buried there. The cemetery is also the final resting place of former FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) Director J. Edgar Hoover and famous Civil War photographer Mathew Brady.

There are more than 65,000 graves there. Burials still take place today.

In recent years, many weeds have grown in the cemetery. Officials did not want to use poisons, called herbicides, to kill the weeds. The cemetery is near the Anacostia River. Officials have worked for many years to remove pollutants from the river, which runs through the city.

Lauren Maloy is the program director at the cemetery. She says because it is close to the river, “We are always looking for ways to make sure that we are sustainable, that we are not using pesticides that might hurt the environment.”

So cemetery officials decided to use goats. The animals are less costly than chemicals and do not hurt the environment.

And the goats eat a lot of weeds.

The animals are owned by Mary Bowen, a farmer. She operates a company called Browsing Green Goats. The cemetery pays her company more than $11,000 to have the goats remove unwanted plants from each hectare of the cemetery. But Mary Bowen says that is about half the cost of using herbicides.

An electronic fence keeps the goats from leaving the cemetery. Mary Bowen says she examines the fence every day. She says she has not lost a goat in five years.

She says the goats do not need to be told what to do, and they only stop eating when they want the food to settle in their stomachs.

Mary Bowen says she hopes the goats will help more people understand that they can keep their property free of weeds without hurting the environment.

I’m Kathleen Struck.

Correspondents Joseph Mok and Yiyi Yang reported this story from Washington. Christopher Jones-Cruise adapted it for VOA Learning English. Kathleen Struck was the editor.

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Words in This Story

weeds – n. a plant that grows very quickly where it is not wanted and covers or kills more desirable plants

cemetery – n. a place where dead people are buried

grave – n. a hole in the ground for burying a dead body

poison – n. a harmful or deadly substance

herbicide – n. a chemical used to destroy plants or stop plant growth

sustainable – adj. able to last or continue for a long time; involving methods that do not completely use up or destroy natural resources

pesticide – n. a chemical that is used to kill animals or insects that damage plants or crops

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