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Conestoga College brings in 'solar grazing' sheep

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A new 33-member crew has been tasked with taming the grass around the solar panels at Conestoga College’s Fountain Street campus in Cambridge.

How long they’ll be there just depends on how quickly they chew.

The area is being “lamb-scaped” by hungry sheep.

“They’re having a great time,” says Tim Fisher, one of their shepherds.

The sheep are doing what’s called solar grazing, eating the grass around the 1,800 solar panels in an area that’s a little more than three acres across.

“We’re really concentrating on keeping the vegetation from growing up into the solar panels,” Fisher says. “And the sheep seem very happy to be under the panels. It’s shady on hot days, it’s dry on rainy days.”

Sheep eating the grass under the solar panels at Conestoga College's Fountain Street campus on June 11, 2024. (Krista Simpson/CTV Kitchener)

In the past, a landscaping crew was brought in to manage the grass growth. This year the college decided to launch this new sustainability initiative, says Samantha Tremmel Lamb, with the sustainability team in the facilities management department at Conestoga College.

“The great part about this whole project is that it’s not just providing us with landscaping, but we’re actually able to re-naturalize this area. As you can see here, we’re improving the soil health. We’ve got live fertilizer generators on site,” Tremmel Lamb says with a laugh (and no relation, she notes, to the sheep). “We’ve been able to completely eliminate the use of herbicides, integrate urban agriculture into our college operations.”

The sheep range in age from a few months to six-years-old.

An electrified fence keeps the animals safely in their grazing area and protects them from predators.

The flock’s presence is also generating buzz on campus, with staff and students stopping by to check them out.

“Not a lot of people have seen sheep in an urban landscape before, so it’s a little bit jarring for them,” Fisher explains.

The sheep are part of a two-year pilot project, and Tremmel Lamb is already thinking of ways to integrate them into other Conestoga programs.

Sheep eating the grass at Conestoga College's Fountain Street campus on June 11, 2024. (Krista Simpson/CTV Kitchener)

“For example, using the wool in our creative industry programs or potentially using the wool as fertilizer, maybe even looking at using the sheep’s milk or cheese in our culinary programs.”

The sheep began grazing at the site on June 3 and are expected to stay for two weeks or possibly a bit longer.

“It’s kind of up to them as to how hard they feel like working,” Fisher says.

After that, the sheep will return to their home at All Sorts Acre Farm near Mount Forest.

But they’ll be baaaa-ck later in the summer to graze again, once the grass grows some more. 

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