Laughing Goat Fiber Farm
Many years ago, when I had just started spinning, I visited a local-to-me farm that was literally down the road: Laughing Goat Fiber Farm in Ithaca, NY. We met the goats, helped round up some alpaca, and had a fun conversation with Lisa about all of the work she was doing with her flock. It was an amazing experience for a newbie spinner and Lisa made me feel so welcome--in her shop, in the pastures, and in the barn. Plus, the angora and cashmere goats were adorably naughty and so personable.
Fast forward nearly a decade and I am more than pleased to have some of Lisa's gorgeous yarn in the Flock Farm Yarn Shop. We have several colorways of her Mostly Mohair blend (60/10/30 Mohair/Alpaca/Merino), which is a perfect addition for accessories or adding strength and beauty to socks. Lisa is very involved in the NY Fiber Community and you can purchase her beautiful finished goods over on her website--linked at the end of the interview.
Lisa was kind enough to answer some questions about her flock and farm, so I hope you'll enjoy the interview, below, and the photos that I've plucked (with permission) from her social media sites.
Interview with Lisa Ferguson
KTS: How did you start your flock and farm and why have you choosen alpaca and goats?
Lisa: I began my flock when we lived in Troy, Ohio. I was "graduating" from chickens, ducks and turkeys on our small farm. I was an avid knitter, and had fallen in love with natural fibers via alpaca, but I couldn't afford them! So, I got angora goats instead.
KTS:Can you tell us a bit more about angora goat fiber and why it's so special?
Lisa: Angoras originated in Turkey and the word for their fiber, Mohair, is an anglicized version of a Turkish word that translates to "king's fiber". It's lustrous, warm, soft but durable, takes dye beautifully, and grows very long. The record is 22" in a year. My goats grow closer to 16"/year, but that's still a long fiber. Mills usually can't manage fiber that long, so most farmers shear them twice yearly.
A long, durable fiber makes a strong yarn. Cornell's testing gave a tensile strength of 879 mpa to one of my mohair/merino blends.
Mohair has been used for centuries in carpeting, suiting, ropes, upholstery etc. It takes wear and tear like few other natural fibers. I've been told it's sock appropriate nickname is "natural nylon".
KTS: Are there any specific shepherd stories you'd like to share: something touching, funny, or just really indicative of life with goats?
Lisa: I have a million stories, but in general goats are inquisitive and smart, inventive and troublesome. I joke that sheep are too easy for me! Goats will untie my fencing, they hide under pallets, they rub their noses on me, and greet me loudly when I enter the barn. They're kind of like dogs that stay outside.
KTS: You also sell ready-to-wear items knit or woven from your yarn. Can you talk a bit about the process of taking fiber from animal to finished object?
Lisa: I harvest the fiber at shearing, and I put it in a color batch. I have about 5, maybe 6 different natural colors of fiber here. I send or take the raw fiber to a scouring facility, or I wash it myself in two top loaders I have out in one of the barns. I put it out to dry on window screens balanced on plastic lawn chairs. (This is a high class operation here!)
Once I have a color batch clean and dry, I will drive it down to Kraemer's Yarn mill in Pennsylvania. I tell them what weight and ply I want for each color batch, and where I want it shipped for knitting.
Once the knitted goods arrive back at the farm, I wash them and dye them and wash again, and then package them for sale. It all sounds very organized and simple, but it involves a lot of time and effort.
KTS: What are your plans for 2022 and/or the future? Anything new on the horizon?
Lisa: Well, I give farm tours of our operation, and I'd like to have the ability to handle van tours. We spend about 60-90 minutes learning about the alpacas, angoras and cashmeres on the farm. We talk about biology, and livestock management and fiber processing. I also talk about sustainable energy, highlighting our solar panels and heat pumps furnace and hot water heater. There's conversation back and forth about solutions to my challenges, and refinements to our rotational grazing and pasture enhancement. People enjoy learning about farmers' lives and livelihoods and I'd like to reach more people in a more efficient way.
KTS: Where can yarn-lovers find you online?
YouTube: lanwanfan (for farm and animal content)