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Ditch the dump and give your Christmas tree to goats

Iron Leaf Farm in Litchfield is one of a number of farms in Maine collecting used Christmas trees to feed to its goats.

LITCHFIELD, Maine — Another Christmas has come and gone, which means some Mainers who celebrate are already taking down their decorations. For those who use real trees, that begs the question about how to dispose of them — and there's an easy option that helps out local farmers.

Anne and David Seeber own Iron Leaf Farm in Litchfield. For five years, they've been collecting Christmas trees to feed to their goats, noting that evergreens have many health benefits in the pine needles and bark, with nutrients, trace minerals, and antioxidants. They also act as a natural de-wormer for goats. Anne said their seven does can strip an entire tree in a day. 

"This past year, we've had a lot more interest," Anne said of the community. She said anyone is welcome to drop off a tree at any time, day or night, by leaving it near the garage or behind the barn's doors. Trees must be stripped of garlands, ornaments, and tinsel — and it's best if they're untreated.

"I know a lot of people appreciate it because they feel like their tree is not just done after Christmas," Anne said. "It's being handed off to the goats. People are happy with that — and they don’t like having the fire hazard hanging around their house."

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There's also an environmental impact since trees aren't going directly to the dump. That's something Bruce Skidgell of Monmouth appreciated when he started giving his tree to goats.

"I've done it one other year, but before that, we used to take them to the dump like everybody else," Skidgell said. "So, it's rewarding to know that they can at least use these trees."

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Running the small farm is also rewarding for the Seebers in general. They said there are challenges, like milking the goats twice a day once babies are born in April, making sure the farm fridge is stocked with baked goods and cheeses, and selling babies to new families every spring. But the sense of accomplishment makes it worth it.

"You really gain a sense of responsibility," David said. "You're taking care of all these animals that are dependent on you."

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Iron Leaf Farm is hosting a designated tree drop on Saturday from noon to 4 p.m. The Seebers will help people unload their vehicles if needed. Visitors can also enjoy a fire, hot chocolate, and spend time with the goats. 

You can also check out a local farm near you to find out if it's accepting trees for goats. 

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