10 Years on Mt. Jumbo
In 1999 the city of Missoula enlisted John and his sheep in an unconventional weed control project. Instead of the conventional practice of using herbicides on invasive weeds, John’s sheep would graze city land on Mt Jumbo. In the beginning only a few sheep were enlisted to accomplish a huge task. Each year more sheep and time was added to the project. Now about 400 sheep spend less time to accomplish the goal to complete the annual Mt. Jumbo sheep grazing project.
Once the project got big enough, a sheep herder, a horse, guard dogs and a campo were needed. John already had the horses and dogs but needed to find a herder and build a campo. John also needed to get the sheep to the mountain but transporting them was too dangerous so, John asked the city for permission to herd them the 9 miles on city streets. That’s how getting the sheep to and off the mountain became a public event.
The community was offered a chance to ride bikes along with the sheep and assist in the herding. The sheep usually go up to the mountain in July and come home by September… so watch for the posts, grab your bike and join the herd on the three hour trek!
Please remember, when the sheep are on the mountain so are the guard dogs. If you are hiking the beautiful mountain and you have a dog, please keep them on a leash for their own protection, and that of our dear Mt. Jumbo sheep.
Due to Farmer John’s Mt. Jumbo sheep grazing the hills of Missoula, Leafy Spurge, a weed with seed capsules that explode, shooting seeds to distances of 15 feet, is decreasing on the mountain. This invasive plant is difficult to control with herbicide because of root depth, and we love providing an alternative and sustainable answer with our animals. A fence going up the mountain, with the green and yellow weed covering the west side of the fence(the control in the experiment) shows the difference of how effective the project has been over the last several years.
We are limiting the spread of weeds by allowing sheep to munch on unwanted seeds as they grow, the sheep’s effectiveness coming in because they eat the plant before the seeds can fall, and intensive, repetitive grazing is what allows the natural, native plants to come back to Missoula naturally. We will continue this great tradition and we are always looking for volunteers to help with the rounds trips, to and from the farm. Come check out our calendar on our community page, sign up with our newsletter to better stay informed, or just simply give us a holler.