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Can Sheep Save Small Towns? How a Fiber Artist Supports Farmers

This article excerpt originally appeared in the July 2018 issue of ACRES USA magazine. It is written by Abbey Smith. Readers may view and download a full PDF of this article. 

From Hobby to Hometown Hero

How a Fiber Artist Supports Farmers

Lani Estill met me at her shop in downtown Cedarville, California, called Warner Mountain Weavers and showed me pictures of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. As we sat in the store surrounded by brilliantly colored yarn, soft and earthy colored scarves, hats and rugs, Lani shuddered as we scrolled through picture after picture of the pile of plastic the size of Texas in the Pacific Ocean.

“Some companies boast that they make products out of recycled plastic. But it is still plastic. It still goes into our rivers, oceans, land and our bodies,” she said.

This is why Lani uses natural dyes and offers wool products to artisans who turn it into beautiful (and warm) garments. Her business, called Lani’s Lana, offers combed top wool, yarn and fabric for sale. Her retail space inside Warner Mountain Weavers, and her online store, also includes garments produced from her wool such as hats and scarves.

“It is the right thing to do,” she said. “Once you’ve woken up to [the impact plastic and synthetic products have on the environment and human health], you cannot not [do something about it].”

Where It All Started

Lani grew up in Cedarville, California, population 514, and is proud to operate her fiber artist business, Lani’s Lana, from Main Street. Besides her dedication to reviving rural communities, Lani has practical reasons for setting up shop in this tiny town.

“ It is less expensive to operate and to live here,” she said. “I can run an online store, have a retail presence and still do everything else I want to do.” “Everything else” includes: substitute teaching at her youngest son’s school, serving on the Surprise Valley Education Foundation board and as the Vya Conservation District president. She is a founding member of the Northern California Fibershed Cooperative. As a mother of four children, a grandmother of one, and someone deeply involved in the community, she still finds time to hike (usually to collect natural dye materials), ski and knit.

“Lani’s Lana is very important to small rural communities like Surprise Valley because it reminds us to believe in our dreams,” said fellow Surprise Valley Education Foundation board member and Surprise Valley resident, Sarah Diven.

The Estill family ranch, called the Bare Ranch, is home to the flock of Rambouillet sheep that produces the wool featured in Lani’s Lana products. As a member of Fibershed, a California based organization that supports regenerative fiber systems, Lani’s Lana products never leave the United States for production.

“Why would we send our wool to China when we can put people to work here,” Lani said. In addition to focusing on regionalized production, Fibershed supported Lani in creating a Carbon Farm Plan for the Bare Ranch. It is estimated that the implementation of this plan sequesters 4,068 metric tons of CO2 annually. This means the wool produced by the Bare Ranch and Lani’s Lana is climate beneficial….

 READ THE FULL ACRES USA ARTICLE 

Abbey Smith is a leader of the Jefferson Center for Holistic Management, a Savory Global Network hub serving Northern California and Nevada. Learn more at www.jeffersonhub.com  She is proud to call Lani Estill her friend and neighbor in rural Surprise Valley. Their children attend the same elementary school and they both serve on the Surprise Valley Education Foundation board.