How I Got Into Alpacas
I am often asked, “How did you get into alpacas?” Sometimes, with only a few minutes to respond, my short response goes like this: I’ve always wanted to be a farmer as far back as I can remember. When I was 5 years out from retiring from the Air Force, I bought a cute little 5-acre farm, thinking I would have horses, goats, llamas, chickens, and possibly a few others on my hobby farm when I retired. Well, after only a couple months on the farm, I was browsing through Hobby Farm Magazine and saw alpacas. I ended up visiting a few farms after that, fell in love, and ended up with a couple of alpacas and a llama late that same year. Over the years I have “collected” more alpacas and some have had babies. Here we are today with about 40 alpacas and llamas on the farm.
So there you go, the short version of how I got here. Feel free to read further for a few more details.
Although I didn’t grow up on a farm (my dad was Air Force), some of my fondest memories as a child were spending time on my grandparents’ homesteads, the occasional opportunities to be around horses when we visited other family, and always having a dog or cat to love on. The idea of living on a farm or ranch was starting to develop in my early twenties. I even partnered with a friend to develop a business plan as our capstone project for our MBA degrees. Since then, living on a farm or ranch was always on my mind and a dream to pursue.
Again, the idea I had a long time ago, was to have a small farm with chickens, goats, horses, llamas, etc. Yes, llamas were on my list long before I thought about alpacas. So in my 20’s, 30’s, and early 40’s I maintained the dream while I pursued careers in accounting and the Air Force. The farm would wait until I retired from the military.
The planner I am, I started searching for the farm property several years before retiring. I was thrilled when I was assigned to Wright Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio a few years before retirement date. Being a northerner at heart, my plan was to look in Michigan on the weekends for my dream farm. Michigan is where I spent many of my teenage years and young adult life. Always loved that beautiful state. Well, my first winter in Ohio (I was 43 then) I came to the conclusion the Michigan winters would be harder to deal with as I grew older. I liked the location in Ohio, so started looking around and found a beautiful 5-acre farm I fell in love with. Although it took a few months to commit, I purchased the farm in April 2004.
I had no firm plans to bring animals onto the farm because I was still 5 years out from retiring from the military. Some of my leisure time was spent browsing through the Hobby Farm Magazine. That did it…how I was introduced to alpacas. I started visiting farms and by November 2004, two pregnant alpacas and one llama moved to the farm.
Over time, more alpacas were added to the farm, several babies were born, and today the herd totals around 40. Although I bred and sold alpacas in my early years, the focus of the farm has always been about fiber production. The alpacas and llamas are sheared in April every year and from there the fleece is processed into various forms to be sold at our yarn shop, festivals, farm markets, and the farm shop.
Over the last several years I have chosen not to breed my alpacas since I continue to bring in alpacas and llamas from other people who need to give up their alpacas and llamas due to their life circumstances. We provide a quality environment for the new herd members to spend their days.
As much as possible, we use the fleece we harvest from all the animals to support their daily care (vet care, shearing, hay, feed, and supplements). Every alpaca and llama has a name, a unique personality, and a special place in our hearts. Recently, my sister set up a Go Fund Me campaign to help support our “rescue” efforts. If you would like to help by making a donation, go here.
Well, that dream of having a small hobby farm has morphed into a full-fledged fiber producing farm and a sanctuary for retiring alpacas and llamas. Although we don’t have horses or goats, we do have chickens, dogs, and cats to round out the farm.
A beautiful farm it is!