On any given morning in January, Danny George will find a heap of discarded Christmas trees outside Bonton Farms. Some of the donated tannenbaums will be stacked behind the fence. Others, dropped off during the farm’s closed hours, are strewn across the sidewalk.
The farm manager and his staff will stack the trees neatly, and then distribute them in the field for the southern Dallas nonprofit’s resident goats to devour. “It’s a good treat,” George says of the goats’ post-holiday feast.
Bonton Farms first put out a call for Christmas tree donations to feed to its livestock about four years ago. The holiday decoration, as well as leftover pumpkins in the fall, is a great way for the farm to supplement feed costs, George says. The animals also love them.
That first year, they received between 50 and 100 donated trees. They now get hundreds each January. Bonton staffers prefer for folks to drop off their trees during the farm’s operation hours—7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Saturday—but people will often leave them after hours or on Sundays. “Coming in on a Monday, sometimes you get overwhelmed, because there’s trees everywhere,” he says.
Either way, the farm staff will sort through the trees, removing anything that could harm the animals, like plastics. Then, they’ll divvy the trees up between the original location and the farm’s extension near Balch Springs. The chickens “may nibble on them,” says George, and the pigs will “try anything once.” But the goats? “The goats will tackle you for them.”
They’ll put out maybe 15 to 20 trees for the goats each day. How fast the goats eat depends on their appetites, of course. But “if I throw one tree back there, it’ll be gone in a couple hours,” George says. It’ll be picked clean, with no bark or needles left. “They eat it to the core.” The goats loved munching on the trees’ pine needles and bark, which are a source of Vitamin C and a good natural de-wormer, George says. And they can supposedly help the goats’ milk production.
All Bonton’s goats are “dairy goats.” The farm has around 30 Nubian, Lamancha, and Alpine goats across its 1.25-acre south Dallas property and the 40-acre extension. During a good season, the goats produce around 15 gallons of milk a week. The farm turns that milk into products like soap. It’ll also sell the milk in its store and use it in the café. There are plenty of pros to goat milk, George says. It’s easier on lactose-sensitive stomachs than cow’s milk, and it’s rich in calcium, magnesium, and other minerals. “They have a lot of benefits,” he says.
If you’d like to donate your Christmas tree, Bonton is accepting them through January 31. The farm posted guidelines online, but trees shouldn’t be dropped off adorned with anything chemical or fake, like tinsel or artificial snow. Those things can harm the animals. They also won’t accept fake trees (yes, some have tried), either. George asks that people leave trees over the fence and not on the sidewalk or in the street—that’s city property.
He also encourages folks to come by while the farm’s open. You can make a day of it by getting a latte at the café and perusing the market. Plus, you can get a tour of the property. George might even let you help feed the goats.