Meridian Jacobs Farm Visit

San Francisco Fibershed Pop Up
Saturday, September 9th | 12-4P
1400 Tennessee St. SF, CA 94110
Check out the event page here.

Join us for our first fall pop-up shop in collaboration with Fibershed to celebrate the transition into autumn and one of our favorite sustainable fibers, wool. The day will be filled with discussions around natural textiles, roving and weaving, and a natural dye workshop where you can take home your very own plant dyed fabric. Shop local handcrafted collections, meet the artists, and enter to win a raffle benefiting our local Fibershed.

To celebrate the upcoming event we checked in with Robin Lynde of Meridian Jacobs farm to learn more about her sustainable farming initiatives. Don't forget to swing by the Coycuhi Fibershed event to shop Meridian Jacobs unique and local products. Plus, there will be a chance to win your very own farm tour.

Tell us a little about yourself and the farm.
I manage Meridian Jacobs, a farm and fiber shop near Vacaville, California. I raise Jacob sheep and share my passion for wool and fiber arts by teaching classes in spinning, weaving, and dyeing, and livestock management at the farm and around California. I provide opportunities to visit the farm during our Open House events and Spinners’ Day (and Night) Out and by creating the one-of-a-kind Farm Club for people who want in-depth experience with raising sheep. In the Meridian Jacobs farm shop I sell spinning and weaving equipment, books, wool, yarn, farm products, and gifts.

I have a husband (who having just retired, is supposed to be the “Maintenance Guy” on the farm), three grown kids, and two young grandchildren. Animals have always been part of my life even though I was born in San Francisco and lived in the city until I was 10. I went to UCDavis as an Animal Science major and that morphed into a degree in Range and Wildlands Management, combining elements of plants, animals and ecosystems at a time before the phrase “sustainable” was part of everyone’s vocabulary. Ten years later my life temporarily took a different path and I got a masters in Exercise Physiology. In another twist, I married a dairy farmer who squeezed running and cycling in between milking shifts when he could. Now, almost thirty years later, raising animals and maintaining fitness are still important elements of my life, along with the Fiber Arts Crafts of weaving and spinning. 

How long have you been running the Meridian Jacobs Farm?
We have been here since 1999, after leaving the dairy in 1988, but the business has evolved to what it is now over the last ten years.

When did you buy your first sheep?
I had naturally colored sheep when we had the dairy but there was never time or space for more than a small flock. I bought the Jacob sheep in 1999 when we moved to our current location. 

What are some things people may not know about sheep?
They recognize faces. Google “sheep recognize faces” and you’ll find research that shows that sheep can recognize at least 50 sheep faces 80% of the time for at least two years.

At the farm, sheep like to hang out with their friends and family. I will find mothers and daughters sleeping near each other.

Sheep are prey animals and, therefore, respond by running when frightened. Sheep that are treated gently and are “pets” may also run as a first response to something that startles them, but will stop and figure out that there is nothing to be afraid of. However, they know a routine and familiar faces and most will be hesitant when those routines are broken or there are other people around. 

How did you first get involved with Fibershed?
Rebecca Burgess, Fibershed’s Founder, came to me when she was searching for raw material for her 1-year wardrobe, prior to the beginning of Fibershed. 

How has your relationship with Fibershed benefited the farm?
A farmer can raise healthy sheep and produce beautiful wool. A designer may create innovative patterns. An artisan can knit a stunning sweater. But each often works in isolation (especially many farmers) even though we are dependent on the products or skills of the others. Fibershed has brought all of us together face-to-face and provided a means for marketing our products creatively while recognizing the real dollar value. In a much broader sense, Rebecca has created an incredible movement to educate the consumer and promote sustainable fiber production. I am in awe of her accomplishments in such a short time and I am excited to be part of the Fibershed movement. 

What does sustainability mean to you and how do you practice sustainability on your farm?
I guess you could say that sustainability is the opposite of regression. To be sustainable conditions should be maintained or even improved upon, but not get worse. My sheep graze irrigated pasture for 3/4 of the year. I have implemented water and fencing systems to facilitate intensive grazing management which allows me to have more sheep here than I could under conventional grazing. The sheep and the pasture are healthier for it. I have only 10 acres of which 6.5 acres is in irrigated pasture and is split into 10 paddocks. Each paddock is grazed for 2 to 4 days at a time which means that it has 25 to 45 days of rest before the next grazing cycle. 

Why are natural fibers + materials important? How do they differ from conventional?
I consider natural fibers to be “conventional”. After all, until fairly recently in history, all fibers were produced from animals or plants and were natural. “Unnatural” would be those produced from oil or those produced from a cellulose base, but manipulated chemically. Synthetic fibers are produced in a non-sustainable system. 

What can someone expect from a farm tour at Meridian Jacobs Farm?
This depends on the season and the age group of the participants. If it’s springtime there will be lots of baby lambs to pet and discuss. In the fall those lambs are 6 months+ old and we’ll still handle them, but it’s a different experience. During breeding season (October) the ewes are split into different groups, each with a ram. I direct the tour to whatever the group’s interest is. In the barn there is animals handling/petting and I will explain management concepts and show tools I use. We can discuss pasture management and take a pasture walk if people like that idea. We can look at fleeces and discuss fiber types and how to work with a fleece. There are also chickens and a donkey to meet. A sheep dog demo is usually a highlight.

At the shop I will demonstrate the steps from taking the fleece from carded wool through weaving. People can look in the shop to see all the different products available for working with wool or that we have harvested from the farm. 

What are some of the most rewarding aspects to what you do?
I enjoy working with my sheep and my dogs (Border collies). I take pride in the reputation I have gained in the fiber community for the quality of my wool, my weaving, and my teaching ability. I also treasure the friendships I have made with other sheep producers and fiber lovers, especially those in my Farm club. 

What are some exciting things that you'll have for sale at the upcoming Fibershed Event?
Wool from my own flock and two other Solano County flocks in: sheep toys/pillows, wreaths, small blankets + throws, scarves + shawls and yarn.

Final thoughts?
I am always glad to show off my wool and wool products and talk to people about the farm. I look forward to this event and am excited to offer a Tour of the farm.