Lately goats have been gaining acceptance as low-carbon lawn mowers and as a pesticide-free tool to eliminate weeds and clear brush. But the idea of keeping goats in the backyard as a source of organic, low-food-miles milk has not gotten the attention it deserves.
The Goat Justice League of Seattle was founded to legalize keeping goats within the city of Seattle. The league’s founder Jennie Grant argues that since modern factory farming is cruel, polluting and produces eggs, milk and meat that are likely less nutritious and more prone to contamination, “why not let people with yards keep dairy goat does or wethers [castrated males]. They are not smelly. Their poop is a valuable fertilizer. They eat invasive plants and make delicious milk.”
Thanks to the groups’ efforts, in 2007, the Seattle City Council passed a measure allowing small goats to be kept within city limits. Grant encourages anyone with a 25×25 foot area within their yard and a desire to take care of animals (“taking care of goats takes work and lots of research”) to consider keeping goats as a source of local food.
In some cities like Berkeley, California, there are old laws still on the books that allow for urban goats. Homeowners Jim Montgomery and Mateo Rutherford decided to take advantage of this 1918 ordinance, allowing for 2 female goats and kids, to add to their backyard garden.
When they bought their first goats in 2001, they considered their neighbors and purposefully avoided louder breeds like Nubians and dwarf Nigerians, opting instead for two Oberhasli females. Today their goats provide more than enough dairy for their household- they make their own cheese and yogurt- as well as fertilizer for the garden.
But these ruminants don’t only provide for the urban homestead, but they also help dispose of what would otherwise be waste. Or in terms of permaculture principles, they close the loop so there is no waste: they eat garden (and kitchen) waste and their waste becomes food for the garden.
In this video, Mateo Rutherford shows us the backyard goats as well as more of their urban farm animals (chickens and rabbits) and we talk to a visitor who is preparing to adopt a few milking goats of her own.