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Christmas tree recycling idea: Donate to goats

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Kathy Porter lost her son to a drunk driver at mile marker 199 on I-75 North 20 years ago. His memorial is now a Christmas tree decorated by strangers.
Eric Seals/Detroit Free Press

Attention, bleating-heart environmentalists!

Instead of tossing your Christmas trees in the trash, a west Michigan petting zoo is asking you to donate your after-holiday Tannenbaums to feed its goats.

The 700-acre Lewis Farms & Petting Zoo in New Era acknowledged its an unusual thing to donate, but doing so is better for the planet, and BamBam, Becca, and the twins, Bubba and Gump, will really will love you for it.

The pine needles are good for the goats, the farm said. The needles are full of vitamin C, they help control worms, and apparently, the animals — including the petting zoo’s deer — find the firs delicious.

“We’ve been asking for tree donations after Christmas for a number of years now,” said Cindy Lewis, who owns the farm with her husband Scott. “The goats can devour a tree in a matter of minutes, they get very excited!”

The agritourism destination, which is in its fifth generation of family operation, is on the Lake Michigan side of the state, near Silver Lake Sand Dunes, about half-way between Muskegon and Ludington.

Scott Lewis’ grandparents and parents initially started a farm market in the 1970s. It closed when roads and traffic were rerouted, but reopened in 2003, when Cindy Lewis started selling cherries on a picnic table in the makeshift front-yard fruit stand.

The stand became successful, and Cindy Lewis – who loves animals – added a petting zoo.

It was small, at first, but grew.

Over the years, the zoo has expanded to include more than 30 goats, a donkey, a miniature horse, an alpaca, deer, prairie dogs, and pairs of camels, wallabies, and lemurs.

There also are peacocks, ducks, chickens, pheasants and parakeets.

The animals, zoo spokeswoman Jenny Ferels said, are personal pets.

“Cindy Lewis knows each and every one of them by name,” Ferels said. “She can tell you where they were born, how old they are, and who their mom is. Most of the family have a goat named after them – and we have some creative names, too.”

In addition to the animals, there are slides, apple and pumpkin picking, and corn mazes.

But, Ferels said, the goats are big stars.

“Goats are the very best at eating,” she explained. “They never get full. Then never get tired of eating. And they take the food out of your hand the most gently of all of our animals.”

The farms and zoo, at 4180 W M-20, is open to the public from May to October.

The winter is when the goats, especially, feast on the evergreens as a treat to augment their regular diet of hay and grain. The zoo sometimes posts video of the goats eating the tree on its Facebook page. 

The zoo said it will take trees through the end of January.

“It’s a great way to continue on the Christmas spirit,” Ferels added. “Rather than take your tree to the curbside or the dump, just spread that Christmas cheer just a little bit further and make some goats happy.”

More: Roadside Christmas tree becomes an Up North mystery

More: Wait, that string of LED lights is Dearborn’s Christmas tree?

Contact Frank Witsil: 313-222-5022 or fwitsil@freepress.com.

Lewis Farms & Petting Zoo

Address: 4180 West M-20, New Era, MI 49446

Phone: (231) 861-5730

Website: lewisfarmmarket.com

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