On this farm, the top goat is called The Mayor. There’s “an old man in a pig’s body” named Sheldon, who can be a little grouchy. And with nine roosters, the chickens have a clearly delineated pecking order.
So goes daily life in Goatlandia, the thriving 2-acre animal sanctuary nestled between wineries in west Santa Rosa.
“The animals in many ways are just like people,” says founder Deborah Blum.
If the IFC show “Portlandia” parodies the Northwestern city “where young people go to retire,” Goatlandia is where rescued goats, pigs and chickens go to live out their new lease on life.
A former corporate jet pilot and current co-owner of hip San Francisco restaurants Beretta, Lolinda, Delarosa and Starbelly, Blum fled hectic San Francisco for the country life of Sonoma County in 2011, settling on Olivet Road, next door to Harvest Moon Winery.
But that was just the start of her rebirth. After watching a Facebook video about the dark side of the meat industry, the lifelong meat eater decided to go vegan — a surprise turn for the co-owner of an Argentinian steakhouse.
After starting her new farm with a few chickens and other livestock, Blum began rescuing animals from friends who ran nearby dairies and farms. Mia, the matriarch of the goat herd, was the first survivor to settle down on the ranch in 2012. Once word got out, random rescue calls started coming in. A San Jose owner of four swine sisters had planned to raise them for slaughter. But after he made the mistake of naming them (Gigi, Dippy, Portia and Brianna), he couldn’t go through with it and called Blum. Someone else called to see if Blum wanted to save Max, a blind lamb, before he was going to be put down.
Goatlandia is now an official nonprofit sanctuary and at full capacity with 16 goats, five pigs, 29 chickens and a pair of dogs. Ever since a class of Marin high school students built a play structure for the animals, she’s been inspired to do more outreach with schoolchildren and volunteers.
“Kids are compassionate by nature,” she says. “Working with animals is really a great form of therapy, for them and for me.”