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United Helpers using sheep to cut down carbon footprint

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HEUVELTON — In an effort to reduce their carbon-footprint and add to their therapeutic offerings United Helpers is launching a new, more sustainable initiative that will see a small herd of sheep cutting the grass at two of their intermediate care facilities (ICFs) in the village.

Three adult sheep and two lambs will take up residence on the grounds during the summer months and will spend the days in a mobile pen that will be periodically moved to ensure the sheep evenly trim the entire lawn.

The pen, which will have a low-voltage charge, is solar powered in order to further cut down on the environmental impact of manicuring the lawn.

The program originally began as an internal joke when Behavior Intervention Specialist Barry J. Berghaus heard of some California-based technology companies using sheep and goats to maintain their lawns.

“I kind of sent it to [CEO] Steve Knight as a joke,” Mr. Berghaus said, adding that at first he didn’t think the idea would be feasible for United Helpers.

But the more staff considered it, the more sense it started to make.

“I am in favor of letting folks try new ideas,” Mr. Knight said, adding that the project fits snuggly within the company’s goal of reducing their over-all carbon-footprint.

During a staff meeting the concept crystallized when Assistant Program Manager at ICF five Lauren C. Peters heard of the idea.

Ms. Peters, who has a farm in Hammond, was in the process of selling off her herd of sheep and thought that if she could use a few to help the company that would be a perfect fit.

“I was looking to sell them or find a place to pasture for the summer,” she said, noting that they were already mowing her 5-acre yard for the past several years.

Now Ms. Peters will be keeping her five remaining sheep at the Heuvelton ICFs, which are located right next to each other, during the summer months where they will find enough grass to keep them full.

“They are really sweet,” she said of the sheep that are moving in. “It will be good for residents to watch the sheep do their thing.”

Mr. Berghaus said, “We do have some residents who really like animals who live in those facilities so we think this will be a real benefit for them.”

Mosaic Administrator Michele M. Montroy, who oversees the ICFs, said the program will not only reduce the company’s carbon-footprint, but has the potential to save some money on the cost of operating and maintaining lawn mowing equipment.

Mr. Knight echoed Ms. Montroy, saying, “We’ve saved hundreds of thousands of dollars by reducing energy consumption through awareness. We have solar hot water projects going on at some of the individualized residential alternatives. And we’ve replaced old boilers at the management company [located at 732 Ford St. in Ogdensburg] with high efficiency boilers and hot water heaters.”

Mr. Berghaus said, “We’re really trying to be green. These little steps I think are meaningful for society.”

If the experiment is proven successful at the Heuvelton ICFs this summer United Helpers may expand the program to other locations.

Learn more about United Helpers at www.unitedhelpers.org.

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