Welcome to Toledo. Please Mind the Grazing Goats.
Mentor Street was always more like an alleyway, a stubby, narrow cul-de-sac lined with large homes on small lots, just off of one of those busy main drags that fan out from Downtown Toledo and the Maumee River. As goes the story in so many Ohio cities, time had not beenparticularly kind to the neighborhood, nor to Toledo itself—Mentor Street and the surrounding neighborhood's futures sagged; the block even sank so far to be known as Murder Alley.
Today, the neighborhood still struggles, but most of the homes are gone—in their place you'll find a spacious urban farm, complete with goat pasture, flower beds and even a butterfly house. What's past is past—Mentor Street is now the home turf of the Glass City Goat Gals, an organization owned by Liz Harris, a neighborhood resident whose dream of agritourism in the heart of a struggling Ohio town might just be coming true.
At the heart of the project—beyond getting the decaying properties razed—is Harris' goat grazing business, which offers an environmentally sensitive alternative to the usual machine-oriented, chemically-based weed and pest control methods.
It was an unusual idea, to be sure, one that took a while to catch on in her neighborhood—"When I first started, people said, 'Goats here over my dead body,'" Harris told the Toledo City Paper in a recent interview. "Now they bring their grandchildren out, they call me if they think anything looks out of place...You have people looking out for you. That's community."
Grazing goats are just part of what Harris hopes to accomplish on this patch of inner city land, where a grand opening celebration will be held on September 24; the project is also a powerful educational tool in a neighborhood where few opportunities exist for the children growing up there. Harris is just one in a group of Toledo residents turning to the notion of agriculture—and even agritourism—as a way forward for the city. The idea is a timely one, considering the region's ongoing battle against food insecurity—in a state where one in six residents struggle with this growing problem, Toledo's situation is even more worrisome.