At Vale Cemetery, the new groundskeepers don’t mow the lawn — they eat it

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By: Steve Flamisch

SCHENECTADY – Enclosed by a solar-powered electric net, 12 goats and 13 sheep grazed Friday in The Dell, the new “green” burial ground in the city’s historic Vale Cemetery.

SUNY Cobleskill supplied the livestock as an eco-friendly alternative to lawnmowers. A few members of school’s Pre-Vet Club, comprised of aspiring veterinarians, kept watch.

“They jumped out of the trailer, and they just went to town,” senior Danielle Schafer told NewsChannel 13. “They just started eating everything in sight.”

The animals are expected to return monthly until the snow flies, said Dirk Schubert, SUNY Cobleskill’s livestock manager. The goats tend to go for taller weeds, while the sheep prefer the grass.

“You’re not having the emissions from the engines of the lawnmowers,” Schubert said. “You’re not burning diesel fuel… Around the country it’s becoming a bigger practice.”

Green burials are formaldehyde-free. The deceased is buried in a biodegradable shroud, a pine box, or a wicker basket. Memorial markers are subtle. Gravesites are natural.

“The area won’t be a manicured lawn like a traditional cemetery,” said Dr. Bernie McEvoy, a Vale board member and volunteer. “It’ll be wildflowers and the natural vegetation.”

No one is interred in The Dell yet, but the first of 187 green gravesites should be ready in about two weeks, McEvoy said. Several people have called to inquire about a plot.