In 1973, Kristian Graaten opened a roadside fruit stand on the Alberni Highway near the Eastern edge of Vancouver Island. Today, the ‘stand’ is known as the Old Country Market. While the charming shop is filled with everything from groceries and gelato to pottery and libre masks — it’s best known for the goats on its roof.
Each spring, a trip of goats is relocated to the market’s roof. The hungry creatures are given free range of the grassy canopy for a few months while they help keep the elevated field in check.
The sod-roof was inspired by Kristian’s roots. He was originally from the small community of Lillehammer in Norway. Structures there were routinely built into the hillside. This ‘green roof’ practice provides insulation during the winter and promotes evaporation to cools a space during the summer.
The use of sod was an exciting design for this BC market, but what Kristian didn’t initially plan for was the roof’s eventual need for a haircut. As the tale goes, after a few glasses of wine, it was suggested that the market ‘borrow’ some goats to help with the conundrum. The visiting tenants were such a hit they’ve been welcomed back spring after spring to ‘mow’ the roof. In fact, more than a million visitors arrive each year to catch sight of the goats overhead who are happily munching away.
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