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Ithaca Fiber Farm Grows With Help From Hybrid "Cashgora" Goats


For Lisa Ferguson, it all started with a few $25 purchases.

That’s how much a single goat cost when Ferguson began her career as a fiber farmer. Now, more than 20 years later and Ferguson has built up an empire of goats, alpacas and one single sheep at the Laughing Goat Fiber Farm in Ithaca, New York.

Ferguson began her professional life as an engineer, but always had a love for knitting with natural fiber from alpacas. Fortunately, there was a much cheaper option for her.

“A cheaper fiber animal were fiber goats, and I had heard some wonderful things about how nice the animals are so I got a couple,” Ferguson said.  “They were in a Pennysaver kind of magazine and they were $25 each. They weren’t really great animals but they were fabulous for getting started.”

Unbeknownst to Ferguson at the time, her impulsive purchase would lay the roots for the Laughing Goat Fiber Farm.

Your Goats Are Laughing At Me!

The Ferguson’s fiber farm quickly grew from six goats to sixty. With help from her husband, they were able to expand the side hobby into a full-grown business. Most fiber farms work with sheep for their wool, but the Ferguson’s wanted a challenge.

“I think sheep are too easy for me,” Ferguson said. “I think they’re a lot easier [the sheep]. They’re less rambunctious, less inquisitive, they’re less likely to escape the fencing. They flock together whereas if there’s some sort of threat, the goats will separate and go all different directions. But the goats are so friendly and they’re so rewarding in that sense.”

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Laughing Goat Fiber Farm also features a handful of alpacas and one lonely sheep. (Photo/Jeb Biggart)

As the business began to grow, Ferguson started to ponder a name for her newfound company.

“At some point I was trying to think of a name and a friend of mine was visiting with her family,” Ferguson said. “Her 12-year-old daughter was standing in the driveway late at night because they had just arrived and they were all whispering to each other. And she said ‘Oh your goats are laughing at me.’ So I thought that was a pretty cool name and that’s how it became Laughing Goat Fiber Farm.”

The Beginning of Cashgoras

Ferguson is one of the few fiber farmers in central New York that boasts goats of cashmere, angora, and a hybrid between the two, dubbed “cashgora.” Her unique breed of goat all started from an accidental mix of her animals.

“I got into the cashgoras only because we had a year where the bucks got in with the doe, and I didn’t realize it until kidding season came,” Ferguson said. “It was an early kidding season and there were all these kids that were not looking like angoras.”

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Cashgoras are unique for their combination of cashmere’s soft fiber and angora’s long curly fiber. (Photo/Jeb Biggart)

Cashgoras are especially rare within the fiber farm industry as many breeders find their hair to be undesirable, according to the Cashmere Goat Association. Ferguson found that there are multiple uses to her hybrid breed, and has utilized their fiber for her many products.

“What I discovered is that when I breed them back to a cashmere, they make the most beautiful cashmere kids. The fiber is really, really long and very soft.”

The Business of Breeding

Ferguson is in an industry where buyers are less likely to make a purchase unless they actually feel the product. That makes events such as Ithaca Apple Fest an absolute must in order to make a profit. Luckily, her mix of mohair from angora goats and cashmere fiber produce an unforgettable soft touch that aids her business.

“The mohair is pretty soft, and the cashmere is obviously softer too, it probably adds some softness to it. That is a big part of the selling.”

file (1).jpegWhile Ferguson said she can’t pinpoint the exact profit that cashgora fiber brings into the business, the addition of its soft texture can help in her sales.

“I think that, in terms of the tactile response I get from people, the cashgora might be helping some.”

Header image courtesy of Jeb Biggart

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