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The Goat Girls provide targeted grazing services throughout SLO County 

"Goat girl" was a nickname that Beth Reynolds loathed. She received that moniker when she was in college working with goats at Cal Poly as part of her senior project in 2003.

The project focused on the service goats provide to manage vegetation—aka targeted grazing, which involves accomplishing vegetation or landscaping goals by using a specific kind of livestock at a determined season, duration, and intensity.

click to enlarge CHEWING AROUND THE COUNTY The animals of the Goat Girls munched on mustard while scaling the Pismo Preserve's hillsides in May. - PHOTO COURTESY OF GOAT GIRLS
  • Photo Courtesy Of Goat Girls
  • CHEWING AROUND THE COUNTY The animals of the Goat Girls munched on mustard while scaling the Pismo Preserve's hillsides in May.

On top of observing the animals at work, Reynolds also learned to herd them and build fences for them. She worked alongside the herd's owner, Howard Trew, who at the time was creating a fire break behind the Cal Poly dorms.

When Reynolds completed her senior project and was preparing to graduate, she said Trew acknowledged her talent for the trade and nudged her to start her own ecological grazing and land management service.

With a background in raising dairy goats and fresh experience in grazing, it was a no-brainer for Reynolds. In 2005, she purchased his goats and equipment to start the business, Green Goats, with the help of her parents.

It was a challenge for Reynolds. She inherited customers who belonged to Trew, but bringing in new customers wasn't easy, as neither the cost nor the concept were accepted.

"It was like a joke. They would say, 'You would ask us to pay to feed your goats?'" she said.

Nevertheless, Reynolds knocked on doors and gave presentations. She eventually took time off from the business to teach in the Animal Science Department at Cal Poly. Reynolds was also encouraged to get on committees and participate in the sheep and goat industry.

"I started to realize that I had this voice for this industry that's called targeted grazing," Reynolds said.

In 2018, Reynolds teamed up with a Cal Poly graduate Catherine Ahsam to reinvigorate Green Goats, however it was difficult to associate the service with the business name because Reynolds' nickname followed her.

"Everywhere I went it was like, 'Oh, you're the goat girl.' Finally one day I was on the corner of Foothill and Los Osos Valley Road at the Beth David Temple. I was out with my goats and I was building a fence, and somebody hung out of their window and yelled, 'We love the goat girl,'" Reynolds said.

At that moment, she stopped fighting the name. She appreciated the remark and said she couldn't have asked for better brand recognition.

Now Goat Girls works on residential, business, city, and county properties throughout San Luis Obispo County.

Reynolds said the grazing by her goats and sheep removes fuel and aids in fire reduction.

"The impact their little hooves can have on stimulating the surface of the soil and helping to prevent erosion can increase native plant species in the area," she said.

The goats can also reach a lot of terrains that large machinery cannot.

"I think that's what drives me to really push this concept is that I see a lot of communities, especially in the state of California, where the terrain is really limited to other methods for fire reduction and so the fact that they can go down these steep canyons and clean up vegetation is a really cool opportunity," Reynolds said.

In January, Cal Fire recognized livestock-managed grazing as an official approved part of fuel reduction methods and vegetation management.

The two women have added two more employees to their team and are encouraging interested individuals to reach out to them to learn more about their service. Visit the Goat Girls' website at thecaligoatgirls.com for more info.

Fast fact

SLO Partners announced that its Ticket to Precision Manufacturing boot camp is now complete, with 22 graduates ready to hire. The apprenticeship program is designed to help hands-on problem solvers enter a new career path through an accelerated training boot camp, connections to growing companies, and post-hire support. SLO Partners Program Director Paula Mathias Fryer said "the manufacturing industry is really vibrant right now, especially as many of these businesses are doing essential work." What people might not know, she said, is there is a strong manufacturing presence on the Central Coast. For more information on hiring an apprentice, contact info@slopartners.org. To learn more about the boot camp or other courses, visit slopartners.org. Δ

Staff writer Karen Garcia wrote this week's Strokes and Plugs. Send tidbits to strokes@newtimesslo.com.

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