Kelly Manufacturing

Ohio Ag News Headlines
Oberlin College Contracts With Farm to 'Mow' Solar Array Field With Sheep
Ohio Ag Connection - 05/26/2023

Oberlin College has traded mechanical lawnmowers for the four-legged variety.

On Wednesday morning, 70 sheep were delivered by Katie Carothers and Cam Maierle with New Slate Land Management to the college’s solar array field near the North Athletic Fields.

By the end of the week, another 70 are expected to be at the field, munching away on the tall grass and white clover.

Carothers said the sheep will be on-site through mid-June, eating and trampling down the grass as part of a new grounds-management contract with the college.

It was an anti-solar mailer alerting of a site coming to their native Knox County that first brought the idea of solar grazing to the Carothers household.

“We reached out to the developer and said we’d be interested in grazing sheep under the panels, so we kind of got started there,” she said.

Border Collies Dougal and Storm helped herd the sheep into the pasture, which will be divided into four sections to make sure Oberlin College’s new woolly contractors do a thorough job.

“There’s plenty of grass out there for them,” she said.

Joel Baetens, campus energy and resource manager, said he’d heard from the college’s grounds crew about how hard the solar array field was to mow — tearing up machinery with rough terrain, while ticks, mosquitos and horse flies posed hazards to staff.

The solar arrays have been in place since 2012. In that time, Oberlin College staff have mowed and trimmed the field or outsourced it to save from the wear and tear on college equipment.

But outsourcing cost more, Baetens said, prompting the staff to look for other solutions.

“That’s when I started looking for a solution,” he said. “I was trying to do robot lawn mowers, we talked about just paving the whole thing … just flirting with all these different ideas.”

And then Baetens thought of goats. But when The Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences informed him goats wouldn’t stop at the grass, but would try to eat the arrays, sheep were suggested as a more docile alternative.

From there, Baetens called several farmers near Oberlin College interested in solar grazing before finding New Slate Land Management out of central Ohio.

Baetens said the new grazing program reduces the cost of cutting grass on the pasture, alongside lowering carbon emissions.

“So we’re paying them just like we’d pay a lawnmowing service,” he said. “The deal is they’ve got to get the grass down to a certain amount and keep it there.”

Oberlin College is expecting to have the woolly workers out several times this summer to keep the field cut down.


Other Ohio Headlines
Zabel Equipment
Copyright © 2023 - All Rights Reserved.