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Monday, June 24, 2024

UC Davis Sheepmowers hold climate change poetry campaign throughout April

The goal of the campaign was to generate words and poems from students that will appear in a mural on campus in fall 2024


By BENJAMIN CARRILLO — campus@theaggie.org 


The UC Davis Sheepmowers — an organization whose purpose is to raise awareness about alternative energy sources for cutting grass — ran a campaign throughout April where students could write words that remind them of climate change to form a word cloud. This climate poetry event would then inspire a mural that the Sheepmowers hope to create by fall 2024. 

Abby Sanders, a third-year community and regional development major, is a research assistant for the Sheepmowers and spoke on why climate poetry was the inspiration for the event.

“Campus is going through a big shift right now with green energy,” Sanders said. “The Sheepmowers are a big part of that, being a big thing on campus that people will visit and [will] raise awareness to this [topic].”

Haven Kiers, a UC Davis associate professor in the Department of Landscape Architecture and the founder of the Sheepmowers, said that the organization began as an experiment to see how sheep compete against lawn mowers. 

“This started when I read about other countries using [sheep] as substitutes for lawn mowers,” Kiers said. “I thought this was a really cool way of being sustainable and thought more about how we’re an agriculture school, and we have sheep. Why not use the sheep we have and see how they are at mowing lawns?”

Kiers continued on about the fundamental principles of the Sheepmowers.

“We found that students’ mental health has been better with the sheep,” Kiers said. “Overall, just having the sheep creates an atmosphere that’s more positive [on campus].”

The sheep also do a great job at keeping the lawn shorter, according to Kiers. 

“[We are] trying to highlight the invisibility of who’s doing the labor, and seeing the sheep as mowers is really interesting,” Kiers said. “[It starts] a conversation about the aesthetic and sustainability of the sheep as opposed to a typical lawn mower.”

The word cloud campaign aimed to inspire poems and ultimately a mural that will go up in the Sheepmowers’ honor. 

“It started with crowdsourcing to come up with the words,” Kiers said. “We asked students and local Davis schools to say what words they think of when they think of climate change.” 

Then, the Sheepmowers spray-painted the sheep with those words and allowed them to roam freely in a fenced-off area on campus from April 24 to 26.  

“Based on where the sheep [were] standing, you’d write a poem,” Kiers said. “At the end, we’d create some sort of publication of the poems and then a mural with the most moving and inspiring poems and words.” 

Kiers also discussed the goals beyond just the mural and what she envisions for Sheepmowers’ future. 

“Because [we will eventually have] our own sheep, I’d love to eventually go to high schools, parks and events and just bring this show on the road,” Kiers said. “The idea is that we will eventually partner with the Green Care Lab to get our own sheep and to travel all around California with them to show off our purpose and raise awareness about alternative energy systems as a whole.” 

The entire Sheepmowers organization strongly urges students to come visit the sheep whenever they see them around campus. They can typically be found grazing on grassy fields throughout campus.


Written by: Benjamin Carrillo — campus@theaggie.org



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