Minneapolis Urban Farmers Want Goats Front and Center in Council Elections

Goats graze on a plot of land owned by Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, as part of an effort to keep vegetation under control. (David Goldman/AP Photo)

Affordable housing, community policing and the minimum wage are all hot-button issues in this year’s Minneapolis City Council race. Another that just emerged: goats.

The Minneapolis Alliance for Goats has asked candidates to take a position on whether residents should be able to raise the hoofed omnivores within city limits, the Star Tribune reports. As Next City has previously covered, zoning for goat husbandry can be slightly more difficult than legalizing backyard chickens or bees, mainly because if they escape, they’ll eat the neighborhood. In Cleveland, goats aren’t allowed in residential districts, except on lots larger than 24,000 square feet. In Detroit, goats require a larger setback from neighbors than chickens. And in Minneapolis, they’re not allowed in backyards at all — according to the Star Tribune, City Council voted in 2011 to “remove a few lines from an agricultural policy plan about studying the possibility of ‘hoofed animals.’”

The Minneapolis Alliance for Goats wants to change that, and according to the paper, it gave candidates a questionnaire asking what regulations council hopefuls believe should be put in place for the animals. It also asks them to detail their stance on raising goats for meat and butchering.

“We know there’s a lot of other issues out there, more serious and pressing issues,” Adam Arling, founder of the advocacy group, told the paper. “But that doesn’t mean we can’t look at goats.”

In fact, beyond the issue of backyard husbandry, goats are already carving (or, perhaps, chewing) out a place in midwestern politics — as four-legged job stealers.

From the Washington Post:

If you haven’t been paying attention, goat rentals are all the rage in landscaping right now. With their voracious appetites they can clear weeds and brush in areas that humans have a hard time reaching. They’re gentler on the environment than heavy landscaping equipment or chemicals. They will eat literally anything, including poison ivy.

If you’re a union representing guys who mow or clear brush for a living, you can see the threat coming from a mile away — even if said threat has two horns, four legs and looks adorable in a sweater.

A Michigan chapter of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees filed a grievance after Western Michigan University rented 20 goats to weed and clear brush this summer, according to the Post. The document claimed that goats were taking away jobs from laid-off union workers. The paper has since taken an investigative look at whether goats do in fact steal work from landscapers, with some impressive math including tractor speed and median goat appetite.

Rachel Dovey is an award-winning freelance writer and former USC Annenberg fellow living at the northern tip of California’s Bay Area. She writes about infrastructure, water and climate change and has been published by Bust, Wired, Paste, SF Weekly, the East Bay Express and the North Bay Bohemian.

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Tags: minneapolisurban farming