Nonprofit aims to do more public events, goat yoga, cooking classes and more
Goatlandia, the farm animal sanctuary tucked between vineyards off of Olivet Road in Santa Rosa, is expanding its sanctuary to a new location on Cunningham Road in Sebastopol.
The nonprofit, led by founder Deborah Blum, recently announced the purchase of the new 20-acre property where they hope to host more public outreach events, such as goat yoga, vegan cooking classes, consultations on plant-based eating, school tours and more.
“This location here kind of started by accident,” Blum said of the Santa Rosa location. “I never intended to have an animal sanctuary, but I’ve always loved animals. This property has been great. We’ve been busy for the first couple of years, but we are not properly zoned for public events.”
Blum said an important aspect to the sanctuary experience is being able to bring people to meet the 26 goats, six pigs, 47 chickens, three ducks and two sheep.
While Blum is able to have a couple of people out at a time to tour the Olivet Road ranch, not being able to host larger tours and activities, such as fundraising events has been difficult.
“Not being able to do that here was a big challenge for us so we decided to start looking for another property, and around that time we met a young couple who were also organic farmers and they came to us looking for property to farm, so the two things kind of happily collided,” Blum said.
The group decided to partner together and look for a new property, eventually purchasing the Cunningham Road property in Sebastopol.
The Sebastopol location is zoned for diverse agriculture, but Blum will have to get a use permit for the public events.
Ten of the property’s 20 acres are a conservation easement, meaning it must be left as a wild land.
In addition to eventually being able to host events, Blum said Goatlandia will be able to save more animals and adopt more out at the Cunningham property.
“It will be increasing the scope of what we do,” she said of the move.
The organization will take possession of the property on Sept. 1 and will start moving over to the new location in about a month.
The Olivet Lane location will still be open and will serve as a receiving and triage facility for rescued animals.
Blum has a $500,000 budget to get the new site up and running, so the first step in the opening process will be fundraising.
Then, according to Blum, they’ll “start with the farm: fencing, tractors, irrigation and greenhouse, and we’ll get some garlic in the ground. We’ll observe the weather and the soil and the land over winter, continue to farm and start building animal barns and fences and guest areas in the spring.”
She said an interesting fact learned from the permitting process is that there is no zoning code for animal sanctuaries.
“A lot of people do not understand what we do; we are like the farm animal equivalent to the Humane Society,” she said.
The grand opening for the new location is slated for summer of 2020.
“We are really excited. We put all of our personal money into buying the property so we are very much invested physically, financially and emotionally in what we are doing,” Blum said.
A mid-career change of heart
Before launching Goatlandia, Blum worked in a variety of careers from fashion design to working as a commercial pilot.
She also owned and operated several San Francisco restaurants, such as the European pizza eatery Delarosa in the Marina District.
Then one day by accident Blum watched a video on animal agriculture, and the experience made her change both her eating habits and her career.
“It was really disturbing because it was the first time that I had seen slaughter-house footage, and I decided to be a vegan overnight. When I did that, I started rescuing animals instead of buying them,” Blum said.
Many of the animals she rescues come from dairies, which don’t usually want male goats, or from families who cannot take care of their animals anymore.
“Most of the animals that come to us come from Animal Care and Control. We have a great relationship with the county and that department. Also from neighbors who see an animal in a situation of abuse or neglect,” she said.
They also adopt out the rescue goats, many of which are used for grass management.
“It is hard work; it is very physical and labor intensive — it is like having kids, except they won’t steal your car and get out,” she said with a laugh. “But living with them and being around them is super rewarding … At a point in your life when you have your basic needs met, it is about giving back and leaving an impact on the community and in the world in some very small way.”
Spend time with goats
Want to meet Goatlandia’s furry family? Those who are interested can volunteer at the sanctuary and help feed and take care of the resident farm animals.
Volunteer shifts are Monday through Saturday from 9 to 11:30 a.m. To learn more about the volunteer program at Goatlandia, visit goatlandia.org/volunteer.