Trust for Governors Island Welcomes Back Legendary Sheep Landscaping Crew
May 15, 2023 9:38 am
For the third straight year the Trust for Governors Island is proud to welcome a family of five sheep for their summer landscaping jobs. Hailing from Friends of Tivoli Lake Preserve and Farm in Albany these sheep will spend the next five months munching away on mugwort, phragmites and other invasive species, freeing up the Island’s horticultural team to do more important work.
Three of the sheep — Evening, Chad, and Philip Aries – are returning to Governors Island for their third season and will spend another summer eating invasive plants in Hammock Grove. Two new sheep — Bowie, recognizable by his dark brown wool coat, and Jupiter, recognizable by the white spot on his nose — visiting the Island for the first time this year.
“Ewe better believe we are excited to welcome baaaaack our flock of wooly friends to Governors Island,” said Clare Newman, President & CEO of the Trust for Governors Island. “This innovative landscaping program is not only a great benefit to our Island’s plants but to our visitors as well, who always enjoy seeing the sheep in action. We are thrilled that two new faces are joining us this year but will note that Bowie and Jupiter are under pressure to live up to the work performance of their family, who have become landscaping heroes and enjoy considerable fame.”
“This will be the third year the sheep will be coming down to help us mow mugwort and phragmites,” said Leo Frampton, Gardener and at the Trust for Governors Island. “As always, these animals will give me and my team more time to do what we love (gardening) by spending each day doing what they love (eating). They will help us maximize the ecological benefits of Hammock Grove, as it continues to grow into a fully formed urban forest that all New Yorkers can escape to.”
“Baa! Baa! Baaaaa! Baaaaaaaaaaaaa!,” said Bowie and Jupiter in a joint statement when asked how excited they was to spend this summer on Governors Island, one of the premier New York City destinations for tourists and locals alike.
Mugwort, phragmites (the sheep’s favorite) and other invasive plant species have a competitive nature and crowd other plantings on Governors Island, essentially creating a monoculture. The sheep eating these herbaceous plants helps to break down and weaken them, preventing them from flowering and the seeds spreading.
Recruiting a herd of sheep is extremely beneficial to the Trust for Governors Island’s efforts to care for the park, as it reduces the time spent on invasive species removal to less than 30 percent of horticulture staff time. The sheep provide eco-friendly landscape care that ensures the area’s biodiversity can thrive for years to come and allows the Trust’s horticulture team to use their time and talents to focus on cultivating an immersive, climate resilient, ecologically beneficial open space where all New Yorkers are able to learn from and reconnect with nature.
Sheep are also uniquely suited to the work on Governors Island, more so than goats or other animals, since their culinary tastes do not include tree bark. The sheep will eat around the young trees in Hammock Grove and focus on phragmites and other delicacies, while goats would devour virtually any plant life they could get their hooves on — invasive or not.
Several sheep herding demonstrations will be held on Governors Island in partnership with Friends of Tivoli Lake Preserve and Farm, featuring live sheep herding and hands-on wool activities, with dates to be announced on www.govisland.org/things-to-do.
“We are excited to be back on Governors Island this year, introducing new animals to this amazing place and expanding their grazing services,” said Kim Tateo, Executive Director and Farm Manager of Friends of Tivoli Lake Preserve and Farm. “It’s been so great to see the how the sheep have helped to improve the plant diversity in Hammock Grove, and to connect that work with the rest of our flock upstate. We can’t wait for Island visitors to learn more about these animals this summer, and hope everyone will join our herding demonstrations — where visitors will be able to experience live sheep herding and learn all about the importance of their wool and its different uses.”
“The days are getting warmer, the flowers are blooming, and the sheep are coming back to Hammock Grove! I applaud the team at Friends of Tivoli Lake Preserve for taking good care of Evening, Chad, and Philip Aries this past winter, and the Governors Island team for preparing Hammock Grove for their return, and welcoming Bowie and Jupiter into the fold. I’m glad New York has had the wool pulled from its eyes regarding just how helpful the flock can be to decrease invasive species, and I look forward to visiting our sheep this summer with my family,” said New York State Senator Andrew Gounardes
“I was thrilled when I herd that Manhattan’s favorite summer residents and natural gardeners were returning,” said Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine. “The Governors Island sheep are an innovative and beloved approach to sustainable, zero-waste landscaping. New Yorkers: Ewe better stop by Hammock Grove to see these four-legged horticulturalists in action.”