Nature’s lawn mowers in action at Bay Area raceway
Don Watson calls them his wooly weeders. They’re the sheep that “mow” the grass and weeds around the Bay Area’s Infineon Raceway.
On a hillside in Sonoma County, two divergent sounds are ringing in the ears of Don Watson: the screeching of racing motorcycles and the low baaaaaa of grazing sheep.
Since 2007, the ex-CPA has tended some 3,500 sheep at the Infineon Raceway. There they act as animal mowers, clearing nearly 1,600 acres of grass and weeds that would otherwise overrun the motor sports complex's parking lots and present a perpetual fire hazard in these dry, windswept hills.
Putting the sheep to work in this way for his business, Rocky Mountain Wooly Weeders, provides Don with the perfect complement to his other line of work, running a lamb and wool operation called Napa Valley Lamb.
The idea of working in the outdoors—and of being a steward of the land—stayed with Don as he graduated from the University of California, Davis, with a degree in economics and started a career as an accountant. In the early 1980s, he found himself with a good job as a CPA.
“I felt like I was in prison the whole time,” he said. “I missed being outdoors.”
Don began raising sheep in Napa but still needed a big, centrally located client to sustain the business, and in 2007, he struck up a conversation with a passenger next to him on a flight from Denver to Sacramento. The passenger turned out to be Jere Starks, the vice president of facilities at Infineon Raceway. And the rest, as they say, is history!
As a backup, Don still has a license to practice accounting, but it's clear he's more at home outdoors.
"My gift in life is being able to herd sheep,” said Don. "It’s what I was meant to do from the beginning.”
For more information, visit woolyweeders.com.