photos by Paige Green


For Ariana Strozzi and Casey Mazzucchi, partners in both business and life, ranching has been a lifelong pursuit. Ariana grew up on the Marin coast, and has been working on ranches since she was seven. Casey was born and raised on a sheep ranch in Valley Ford, property that has been in his family for four generations. Though they lived within the same coastal watershed for over two decades, it was less than two years ago that Ariana and Casey met, and from their partnership a new community resource has emerged. Their Valley Ford Mercantile & Wool Mill is now operating in downtown Valley Ford (population 126), within the beautiful countryside of the Estero Americano watershed on the border of Marin and Sonoma Counties.


Fibershed visited Ariana at the Wool Mill recently, and woven through the conversation was her passion for connecting people with nature and land, and her desire to awaken people to healthier, more sustainable ways of living. Initially this was manifest through Ariana’s innovative work with horses, which she developed into Equine Guided Education (EGE), a form of interacting with horses as a means of “getting back in touch with our curious, imaginative self, connecting to what has heart and meaning, and creating new perspectives for living our life on purpose.”


Skyhorse Ranch, the home of Ariana’s EGE programs, was established twenty-five years ago, but it wasn’t until around 2002 that she began raising sheep. At the time Ariana didn’t know what to do with the wool, but she soon discovered the health benefits of wool products when she purchased a wool bed from Shepherd’s Dream. Ariana was so impressed with the wool bed that she decided to use her own wool to make products such as comforters, mattress pads and pillows. And the more Ariana learned about the qualities of wool (naturally fire-retardant and antimicrobial, so it doesn’t mold or mildew or attract dust mites), as well as the problems of waste and chemicals being used in the bedding industry at present, the more she felt an urgency to create healthy products.


Because the few wool mills in Northern California had a long lead time on orders, and not wanting to increase the wool’s carbon footprint by shipping it great distances for processing, Ariana took a big leap of faith and purchased a spacious old building in Valley Ford—just down the road from Skyhorse Ranch—with the intention of starting a wool mill with Casey, who shares the same interests and values. In 2013, Ariana and Casey were ready to get the mill up and running, and with the assistance of textile engineer Keith Wild, they found the equipment they needed to get started.


Last July, a carding machine from Ohio and a 15,000-pound needle-felting loom from North Carolina—dubbed Big Blue—arrived on the scene, and the Valley Ford Mercantile & Wool Mill was born! Wool products that are made in the Mill and sold at the Mercantile (with the assistance of two employees) include bedding products filled with healthy wool batting from the sheep at Skyhorse Ranch, as well as mattresses on custom order, and a variety of felt goods, from clothing to rugs to felt yardage that designers are snapping up for their creations. A notable example of a garment made with felt yardage from the Mill is the “Wool Warrior in Love” by Hiroko Kurihara and Sabrina Fair, featured in last December’s Fibershed Fashion Gala.


In addition to processing the wool from their own flock—comprised of Dorset, Navajo-Churro, and Shetland sheep—Ariana and Casey receive wool from producers throughout the area, which they wash and card, and sometimes needle felt, depending on the needs of the customer. They are providing much-needed services for local wool growers, and soon the mill will be bringing in spinning equipment so that they can also create worsted yarn, from sport weight to bulky.

Although large machinery plays an important role at the Mill, handwork is also very much in evidence. Ariana has been a seamstress since youth and is also a visual artist, so she is delighted to combine her abilities in the creation of wool garments and decorative wall hangings and rugs. In addition, Ariana has begun to knit with yarn that she and Casey hand spin, and a natural dye garden is in the plans to augment the beautiful natural colors of their wool. Ariana’s creations are for sale in the Mercantile, along with the work of about 20 other fiber artists, as well as raw and processed fiber from other local farms and ranches.


Continually increasing their knowledge and skill base, Ariana, Casey, and Ariana’s son, Jack, have enrolled in the Wool Classing School taking place this month in Hopland. And Jack, who helps with the animals on the ranch and has plans to study Ag business when he starts college this fall, will be attending Sheep Shearing School as well.

The feeling of community is evident at Valley Ford Mercantile & Wool Mill, and on May 17-18 the community will be coming together for the mill’s First Annual Wool Festival. In addition to educational demonstrations—from shearing and wool classing to spinning and weaving—local wool producers and artisans will be selling their wares. There will even be a Fleece Marketplace, run by the mill staff, selling wool and yarn on consignment. (If you are an artisan or wool producer, interesting in having a booth or selling on consignment, please contact Fibershed plans to join in the celebration, and we hope to see you there!


Thank you, Ariana and Casey, for all that you bring to the community!

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4 Responses to Blending Local Wool & Community in Valley Ford

  1. Carol Harper says:

    Love the site especially the photos.

  2. Emilia says:

    Wow! What an incredible place!! So wonderful. And, such a great story.. seems perfectly meant to be and such a great addition to the area. Can’t wait to see the yarns & natural dye garden. Ariana is such an inspiration!!

  3. Former Naval Person says:

    Super resource for the Marin Coast folks, both suppliers and users !! Keep it growing please !

  4. Reirin Gumbel says:

    This is wonderful! We really needed a local wool processing place. I am still heavily involved in Zen practice at Green Gulch Farm, but will soon start to branch out and offer my favorite workshops about Crafts as Spiritual Practice. I am itching to spin and weave again!

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We often think about how our clothes are made in terms cutting, sewing, knitting, weaving, dyeing, spinning.... maybe we get as far back as thinking about the farm where the fibers were grown. Do you ever ask..."Where does farmed & wild plant life come from?" Natural plant-based fibers are made of carbon that once existed in our atmosphere as carbon dioxide. When the carbon dioxide is inhaled by the plant, the oxygen is released (we breathe it) and the carbon is used to build the structure of the plant, (plant fibers are carbohydrates = carbon and water), and protein fibers (like wool) are made when an animal transforms a carbohydrate into a protein. When humans make choices to wear 'fresh forms of carbon' from plant and animal fibers, we begin to learn what it means to live in balance with the carbon cycle. Better yet, when we choose to wear clothing from farms that are consciously drawing down as much carbon as they can and reducing emissions where they can... we see that we can begin to grow and wear fibers that are #climatebeneficial Paige Green Photography ... See MoreSee Less

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Learn about Natural Dye practice from author and practitioner Sasha Duerr at this year's Wool Symposium on Nov. 19th in Point Reyes Station. Sasha is a professor at California College of the Arts-- and teaches a Soil to Studio class that has inspired generations of young designers (some of whom will also be at this year's Wool Symposium). Sasha's new book Natural Color will be available for signing and she will host a hand's on demonstration of a late autumn and early winter dye recipe. You'll have an opportunity to take part in a truly seasonal plant based color recipe making process and take home a home-grown naturally dyed fiber sample too!

Tickets to the Wool Symposium available here:

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Events Calendar

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Sun 30

Fibershed at the Farmer’s Market

October 30 @ 9:00 am - 1:00 pm
Sun 30

Dyeing Wool: Windrush Fiber School

October 30 @ 11:00 am - 4:00 pm