Sheep come back to mow the lawns of Schenectady’s Vale cemetery


SCHENECTADY – The SUNY Cobleskill Animal Husbandry Department has brought 33 sheep to graze on one of the green burial plots in Vale Cemetery Thursday, marking the fourth year of a partnership between SUNY Cobleskill and Vale Cemetery.

SUNY Cobleskill is providing sheep and goats to the cemetery in an effort to help their green campaign. Sheep graze for a day on the green cemeteries, which helps maintain the grounds without the need for gasoline-powered landscaping tools. In doing so, the grounds become more ecological, promoting a truly natural environment.

The historic Vale Cemetery in Schenectady opened its doors 164 years ago. During the expansion of the cemetery, Vale sought to develop new methods that progressed with modern times and adhered to his Christian foundation. The idea emerged to create a natural burial section on the cemetery’s 100 acres of land.

“We support the Vale Cemetery Green Initiative and love to be part of it. Now is the time for a more environmentally friendly society. SUNY Cobleskill is committed to promoting environmental policies that contribute to climate reduction on all fronts, ”said Dirk Schubert, Livestock Manager at SUNY Cobleskill.

In addition to reducing wild flora and fauna, sheep help prevent invasive plant species from thriving in organic fields. Once the unwanted vegetation is removed, native plants and flowers are cultivated and cultivated throughout the region. The aim of Vale Cemetery is to develop a wildflower garden, favoring the return of bees and butterflies, two species that are facing rapid decline.

“The list of endangered species continues to grow. There has been a surprising decline in the number of bees worldwide, a species necessary for the growth and pollination of flowers, ”said Schubert. “It is our hope, along with Vale’s, that our efforts here facilitate the growth of these creatures.”

SUNY Cobleskill is known for its agricultural and agronomic prowess. Almost a quarter of the University’s undergraduate enrollment is involved in the Animal Science program. Areas of study include agriculture, dairy farming, horseback riding, and a new K-9 curriculum.

“We are immersed in the external environment on a daily basis. Engaging with nature on a daily basis deepens our understanding of the need to protect the environment. Even the fence we use to lock up our sheep is completely solar powered, ”said Schubert.

The Vale Cemetery Board of Trustees created the idea of ​​natural burial sites in 2011. Since the emergence of this design, the cemetery has produced 169 natural burial grounds, with 55 of these spaces sold and nine already in use. .

“Natural burials are on the rise. We [Vale Cemetery] constantly receive calls from other cemeteries seeking information about the process. Using sheep is great because it eliminates noise from leaf blowers and lawn mowers and helps reduce carbon emissions. Their introduction turned out to be nothing but beneficial, ”said Dr Bernard McEvoy, Secretary of Historic Vale Cemetery.

The use of coffins in burials has contributed to national deforestation and soil contamination from chemicals such as formaldehyde. Cremation, on the other hand, requires an average of 28 gallons of fuel, releasing about 540 pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, according to a National Geographic article.

“Natural burials have a substantial impact on environmental conservation. Within the practice, only biodegradable coffins are used, which allows for an all-natural process, ”said McEvoy. “People often choose to use bamboo, wicker or seagrass coffins rather than the traditional alternatives.”

Vale Historic Cemetery is one of six cemeteries in New York State certified by the Green Burial Council, a national organization. In order to comply with board requirements, Vale refrains from using pesticides, herbicides and insecticides. It is also forbidden for people wishing to be embalmed to be buried on natural plots, due to the use of formaldehyde.

“We believe that burial is only ‘green’ when it pursues legitimate environmental objectives such as protecting workers’ health, reducing carbon emissions, conserving natural resources and preserving the environment. habitat ”, states the mission statement of the Green Burial Council.

To get people to consider the idea of ​​green burials, the Historic Vale Cemetery featured guest spending estimates. The average cost of a burial at Vale Cemetery is $ 3,100. In comparison, a green burial costs almost $ 2,000 less with an average cost of $ 1,175. Ten percent of burial costs are also allocated to long-term permanent maintenance.

“We want people to know that this is a legitimate option. We try to keep costs low while helping to conserve the environment. This opportunity is offered to us because of the economic cost of natural alternatives, ”said McAvoy. “Thanks to the sheep, even our fertilizer is free.”

For more information on natural burials, visit

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