By Caroline Spurgin / Photos by Alycia Lang
Lisa Colorado is one of those people with such tangible conviction it all but glints in the sun. She is an activist, philosopher, academic, wife, mother, permaculturist and, most recently, small-time rancher. She has five Angora goats and two Romney sheep, together comprising her fiber program which is in a state of flux. She has had goats for 3 years, but the sheep are new—as is Sonrisa Family Farm’s focus on fiber. Like a true fiber lover, she takes up these diverse threads and spins them into harmony. The concept of harmony, in fact, seems to be a unifying one throughout the elements of Lisa’s world, tying into her actions, beliefs, motivations and goals. She is winning the battle against cognitive dissonance, bringing her life into accordance with her beliefs in ecological sustainability, social equality and the resilience of strong communities. This is a rare thing in our infinitely complex modern society, a thing which I find highly valuable in the search for the intersection of idealism and reality.
Until last September Lisa ran a half-acre organic permaculture farm. The foundation of permaculture is the theory that nature has already created perfectly balanced ecosystems which support healthy plant and animal life sustainably. The application of this theory to agriculture entails mimicking these diverse systems and supporting the equilibrium that keeps the systems working in tandem. While all agriculture takes enormous care and energy, permaculture requires a special kind of focus and planning because rather than maintaining several isolated crops, the permaculturist is fostering a diverse ecosystem and if one element of the ecosystem fails, the rest are compromised.
After three years of selling organic vegetable and pastured poultry from the family’s farm-stand (built by Lisa and her husband Juancarlos), and the Tuesday farmers market in Petaluma, she’s decided to cut back on the veggie farming and refocus her efforts on her Fiber program—for which she has big plans.
“I’ve always been artistically minded,” she says, “I think with the farm, the art was in making it all flow together to keep all systems running efficiently. But with these guys… I’m so looking forward to finally being able to learn how to work with the wool… learning how to spin and weave tapestries and rugs.” And Lisa’s goats produce such incredible fiber, we too are already looking forward to when this year’s fiber harvest is processed at Yolo Wool Mill so we can work with it as well! Typically, as fiber animals age their fiber becomes courser, but Lisa’s Angora goats produce fiber that meets the quality standards of much younger goats. She attributes her goats’ miraculously fine Mohair (the fiber produced by Angora goats) to their genetic stock—which she cultivates painstakingly—and their gourmet diet of orchard alfalfa, almonds, cashews, peanuts, sunflower seeds and organic, home-grown vegetables.
We heard Lisa refer to her goats as “the dogs of the goat world,” her pets, her princesses and her girls. Her affection for these lovely animals is obvious, even when she’s not extolling their values. The girls and their buck live in what is fondly referred to by the family as “The Goat Chase Lounge,” and with its hay bales stacked to varying heights—giving these gorgeous Turkish goats ample opportunities to languish, pose elegantly with front hooves perched up on a high bale, or skamper across their stage—it’s hard not to think of the Lounge as more of an opulent goat harem. And Talus, Sonrisa’s new buck, plays the part perfectly. Lisa explained how Talus romances his ewes—Twila, Alma, Rafelita, Daisy and Ruby—by taking them for walks around the pasture and nuzzling them flirtatiously. These are very glamorous goats.
Lisa may be relatively new to the fiber scene, but she certainly knows what she’s doing. She is a wealth of information—actively learning and actively engaging with other people in the agriculture community, she is on the fast-track to fiber expertise. She is one of those amazing, self motivated and intelligent people who are putting everything they have into doing what they think is right—a true powerhouse. Petaluma is lucky to have Lisa Colorado.
Lisa extends an open invitation to visit the farm and meet the menagerie. In the weeks since our visit, her girls have birthed seven kids! She will be selling 5 of the new kids, so if you want a chance to play before the wee ones disperse, or are interested in purchasing a kid you can also get in touch with Lisa through Facebook. You can also get in touch with Lisa through FB if you are interested in visiting for any reason, purchasing fiber or to simply ask a question.
Thank you, Lisa, for the wonderful visit! We look forward to watching your fiber program unfold!