Green Goats Rhinebeck Offers a Unique Solution to Weed Control

Enough with the lawn chemicals—rent goats and they’ll do the weeding. And yes, there’s a local company that supplies them.

When Ann Cihanek moved with her husband from Queens to Fishkill in 1994, she was excited to finally have some land—an acre and a half, to be exact. Little did she know she’d be sharing it with livestock. “Larry had lived in Carmel and had owned some goats before we were married. He would mention them. I kind of listened and smiled,” she remembers. After the couple wed, “I told Larry, ‘I’m too cute for goats. We’re not getting goats.’”

They totally got goats. Within a few years, the duo had a couple of children—and then acquired a couple of kids. “When I returned from a girls’ weekend, Larry had bought two goats, about five months old. I wasn’t happy, but I quickly fell in love with them,” says Cihanek. Gradually, the OGs (original goats) were joined by enough others to make a small herd. The Cihaneks expanded their human herd as well, until they had eight children in all, including five from Larry’s previous marriage. They moved again to Rhinebeck for a year, only to return to Fishkill once more.

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Photo courtesy of Green Goats Rhinebeck

In 2005, an opportunity arose to turn their goats into moneymakers. “A park on Staten Island had a weed issue, mainly poison ivy, and was urgently looking for some goats,” explains Cihanek. The reason was simple: The dreaded plant, plus weeds in general, happen to be among goats’ favorite foods. Cihanek and her husband rented four goats to the park that June, and over the spring and summer the animals nibbled the ivy and other weeds into oblivion. News quickly spread of the eco-friendly alternative to harsh chemicals. “We had great press coverage. By the end of that summer, we had three other jobs lined up,” says Cihanek.

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Before long, more property owners and managers got the message: If you’ve got weeds, call goat busters. Today, their company trucks the animals to clients in New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and even West Virginia. At the sites, employees fence in the area where the animals will roam and construct a shelter for them. Clients are responsible for providing fresh water (“and saying nice things to the goats,” adds Cihanek). Seeking more space, the goats and their owners moved to a 100-plus-acre property in Amsterdam (Montgomery County) for several years. Eventually, though, the Cihaneks realized they were too far from many of their clients. “Rhinebeck was a midway point between Amsterdam and many of the places we send our goats, so we relocated there around 2014,” she says. This time, the couple rented a 130-acre property with a barn, and registered their company, naming it Green Goats Rhinebeck. Then a sudden disaster threatened their business’s survival: In 2016, the barn burned down, and the goats—110 in all—perished. “We learned so much about humanity then,” recalls Cihanek. “Before the smoke cleared, a community was standing there, helping.” Volunteers rebuilt the barn in two weeks, and people—including strangers—donated 120 goats.

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Green Goats Rhinebeck is ready to help businesses tackle weeds. Adobe Stock / Natural PNG

Today, the herd numbers about 140. “We get goats donated from all over, including sanctuaries,” says Cihanek. The animals are on call from summer to early autumn. “We will either bring a couple of goats [to a property] or bring in 10 to 20, depending on the site and vegetation,” she explains. Clients include places with at least two to three acres of land, such as churches, golf courses, and colleges including Vassar, Marist, and Bard. Cihanek’s children help keep the operation running smoothly. (Sadly, Larry passed away in 2022.)

When the goats aren’t working, late September through May, “they come home and hang out,” shares Cihanek. She knows each one’s name, including dainty Heidi Klum, who lifts her leg so high when she walks on wet grass that she looks like a supermodel. “They have different personalities, too, like your coworkers,” says Cihanek. But unlike your coworkers, they never take credit for someone else’s PowerPoint or steal lunch from the fridge. “I love what I do, and who I work with,” adds Cihanek. “The goats are a lot of fun.”

Related: These Are the Top Wellness Trends in the Hudson Valley for 2024

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