Siegel’s Cottonwood Farm going green with goats
By Cindy Wojdyla Cain firstname.lastname@example.org May 27, 2012 8:00PM
Goats feed on oat grass on the roof at Siegel 's Cottonwood Farm in Crest Hill. File Photo. | Matt Marton~Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 3, 2012 9:32AM
CREST HILL — Paul Siegel jokes that he’d like to call his latest farm attraction “goats on a hot tin roof.”
But the goats, animal welfare officers should note, are not on a hot tin roof. They’re actually on a green roof filled with oat grass they can munch on all day as traffic whizzes past Siegel’s Cottonwood Farm.
Siegel is always thinking of new ways to market his farm, which sells plants in the spring, veggies in the summer and hosts a pumpkin fest in the fall. He got the idea for goats on a green roof from a mixture of experiences.
Years ago he was impressed with goats eating a thatched roof on top of a Door County restaurant.
“The goats would just stay up there,” he said. “They knew where the food was.”
Later, he started reading about green roofs filled with grass and plants that were being installed on skyscrapers in big cities.
“People talk about skyscrapers having green roofs,” he said. “I’m on a farm. Why can’t I have a green roof?”
Finally, Siegel has a petting zoo on his farm during his annual fall pumpkin fests. During the fests, pygmy goats would climb up an old grain elevator shaft to a fenced area of the barn roof. But one goat, named “Trouble,” would hop off the shaft onto the unfenced roof and beg for food from the barn eaves. So Siegel got used to a goat eating on his barn roof.
Last year, when Siegel decided he had to repair the rotting roof on a building that shaded his plant sale area, he decided to go green and plant oat grass and pasture plants.
He also built a shelter for two of his eight goats who now have the penthouse suite on top of the plant shelter.
The roof slopes in toward the middle for drainage reasons, but some customers think Siegel did a bad job building the green roof. They offer to repair it for him, he said.
Siegel purchased special soil for the project to allow proper drainage without weighing down the roof too much.
“You don’t just take dirt out of the field and put it up there,” he said. “There’s a whole science to how you have a growing media that shallow.”
Siegel, who once had the faces of presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain carved into his corn maze, is happy with the way his latest project turned out.
“We are always looking for something unique and eye catching,” he said.
And while Siegel doesn’t buy into the extreme green movement, he does believe it’s important to teach people about farm life and nature.
“It’s all about education and life on the farm,” he said.
Siegel said the green roof has generated a lot of interest at the farm, which is located on the west side of Weber Road, just north of Caton Farm Road.
“A good way to promote something is to get people to ask questions,” he said.
So far the as-yet-unnamed goats on the roof are doing their part for the farm display, Siegel said. They’re naturally cute and voracious eaters. Oh, and one more thing.
“They’re fertilizing up there, too,” Siegel said.