Attention, bleating-heart environmentalists!
Instead of tossing your Christmas trees in the trash, at least one petting zoo is asking you to donate your after-holiday tannenbaums to feed its goats.
The 700-acre Lewis Farms & Petting Zoo here acknowledged it’s an unusual thing to donate, but doing so is better for the planet, and BamBam, Becca and the twins, Bubba and Gump, will really will love you for it.
The pine needles are good for the goats, the farm said. The needles are full of vitamin C, they help control worms, and apparently the animals — including the petting zoo’s deer — find the firs delicious.
“We’ve been asking for tree donations after Christmas for a number of years now,” said Cindy Lewis, who owns the farm with her husband, Scott. “The goats can devour a tree in a matter of minutes. They get very excited!”
Blue spruce, Douglas fir, Fraser fir, Scotch pine and white pine sans fake snow, ornaments and tinsel are among the evergreens that are safe for goats and sheep in moderation. Yew can be toxic, according to Janet Garman, who writes her blog about Timber Creek Farm in Charlottesville, Virginia.
The trees are a treat considering hay is the usual feed for winter, she writes.
Lewis Farms & Petting Zoo is in its fifth generation of family operation on the Lake Michigan side of Michigan, near Silver Lake Sand Dunes, about halfway between Muskegon and Ludington.
Scott Lewis’ grandparents and parents initially started a farm market in the 1970s. It closed when roads and traffic were rerouted, but reopened in 2003, when Cindy Lewis started selling cherries on a picnic table in the makeshift front-yard fruit stand.
The stand became successful, and Cindy Lewis, who loves animals, added a petting zoo — small at first, but it grew.
Through the years, the zoo has expanded to include more than 30 goats, a donkey, a miniature horse, an alpaca, deer, prairie dogs, and pairs of camels, wallabies and lemurs. She also has peacocks, ducks, chickens, pheasants and parakeets.
The animals are personal pets, zoo spokeswoman Jenny Ferels said.
“Cindy Lewis knows each and every one of them by name,” Ferels said. “She can tell you where they were born, how old they are, and who their mom is. Most of the family have a goat named after them — and we have some creative names, too.”
Winter is when the goats feast on the evergreens as a treat to augment their regular diet of hay and grain. The zoo sometimes posts video of the goats eating a tree on its Facebook page.
“Goats are the very best at eating,” Ferels said. “They never get full. They never get tired of eating. And they take the food out of your hand the most gently of all of our animals.”
These aren’t the only goats that like leftover Christmas trees. In the past, goats in San Francisco, California; Monticello, Georgia; Ames, Iowa; Westbrook, Maine; Monson, Massachusetts; Faribault, Minnesota; Reno, Nevada; Rural Hill, North Carolina; and Parma, Ohio, have snacked on discarded holiday evergreens to keep the trees out of landfills.
These are the same animals that willingly take out a hillside of poison ivy and other pest plants in the summer.
“It’s a great way to continue on the Christmas spirit,” Ferels said. “Rather than take your tree to the curbside or the dump, just spread that Christmas cheer just a little bit further and make some goats happy.”