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Using a mini mill to process fleece

A mini mill was the perfect solution for the sheep, llamas, and alpacas on this acreage.

Tom and Mette Goehring of Lompoc, California, have a lot of fiber. They raise club lambs for 4-H and F-F-A kids, along with llamas, alpacas, and Icelandic sheep.   For many years, they had no idea what to do with all the fleece produced when the animals were shorn.

Tom is a hand-spinner and Mette a knitter. The joke is that he couldn’t keep up with her, so they decided to take the process to a higher level.

"We kind of looked into the mill aspect of it. Our friends have a mini mill up in northern California and we visited them, and said, 'You know, let's do it.' So, we invested in the fiber mill," Mette says. And for the first six months to a year, we had a lot of our own fleece and we worked with that on weekends because we were still both working off the ranch. And it just kind of exploded from there."

They got the mill in 2006. It became so successful that after just one-year, Mette left her job to operate the mill full-time. The couple has clients all over the country who send fleece to them for processing.

The mini-mill has 12 pieces of equipment set up in an outbuilding on the Goehrings' acreage.  The mill takes the raw fleece through a process that turns it into finished yarn, or roving for hand-spinners.

The mini-mill is a dream come true for the couple.

"It's something my husband had always wanted to do being a hand spinner -- he's actually a weaver as well -- and I've always loved to knit," Mette says. "It's an income for me full-time, and Tom will be home hopefully within the next year full-time as well, and we can make a living off of processing fiber and selling our yarn."

Mette says they have a six-month backlog of orders, but have no plans to expand their mini-mill operation. She says it's just enough for the two of them, and they are happy with the job security.

Radio interview source: Tom and Mette Goehring, Owners, Ranch of the Oaks

Country View: Tom and Mette Goehring -- Fiber Mini-Mill

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