adventure of discovery began sometime around 2004. Our
first real encounter with Alpacas was at the Farm Show
in Harrisburg. We really didn't have much of an
impression other than, "Hmm, we didn't know people
actually raise these kinds of animals." Our interest
Then on a family trip to the New Jersey Shore, we found
ourselves looking for something new to do. The hotels
there always have interesting magazines featuring new
places to dine and other places to visit. One of the
advertisements featured an Alpaca farm in the Cape May
(Bay Springs Farm) It
seemed like an interesting way to spend the afternoon.
On arrival, we were met by Warren Nuessle, a retired
gentleman, who was happy to spend time talking with us
about his farm and the Alpacas. We had another one of
those "Hmm" moments. This seemed to the a logical kind
of thing to do maybe when we retire. He didn't look too
stressed or over-worked. Then we went around to the
house, where in the back, they had a farm store set up
in a glassed in sunroom off the back deck. Barbara, his
wife, was very helpful to Jo, who was interested in the
yarn for knitting. We came away with a very positive
feeling about the idea of raising Alpacas ourselves. But
wait a minute. I bet these people were loaded, and this
was just a rich man's hobby. Maybe...
again, the idea began to fade...but not completely.
Then, in the Fall of 2006, we saw an advertisement for
an Open Barn at a local Alpaca farm
(Almosta Ranch Alpacas)
National Alpaca Days.
There we met Kathy Kenworthy, the farm owner. Kathy is a
traveling infusion nurse by day, and had started her
Alpaca farming just a few years before we met her. Now
we had a completely different view of things. Here was
someone closer to our age and station in life, doing
this farming thing while keeping up a "real" job. "Hmm"
again. We spent a good part of the afternoon trying to
get a better feel for the real day to day side of
raising Alpacas. Now we started asking questions like,
"What do you do with them?" and "Is this just a hobby or
is it a business?" So now the wheels began turning.
We decided to visit another local farm
(White Lightning Alpacas)
where we met Dane Burkhart and Ann Lemmon. We visited
for quite a while, gaining a better insight into daily
operations. We began to see the pattern that everyone
has a different way of approaching the business. Yes, by
now we realized it could be a business. Not a get rich
scheme by any means, but something that had truly
captured our imagination.
conversations continued for several months into 2007.
Ultimately, we could not come to grips with the simple
question, "Is this more than we can handle?" Was this
the next big step in our life? How would we get there
spent several months sitting on the fence, but the idea
just wouldn't go away. In July we traveled to visit my
sister who lives in Oregon. After spending several days
seeing the typical tourist stuff, we found ourselves
with a day and no agenda. With a very little bit of
found several farms within day tripping distance. With
trusty GPS in hand, we were able to visit about 5-6
farms that day. They ranged from retired Mom and Pop
operations to big business operations. Again, we found a
multitude of ideas of how to go about this business. But
we were thinking WE could do this!
One BIG problem though...we didn't have a farm.
So...to make 110% sure we really WANTED to do this, we
decided to take some baby steps. Upon returning home, we
went back to Almosta Ranch Alpacas and started talking
with Kathy Kenworthy. In all of the people we had talked
to so far, she seemed to be someone we could feel
baby step plan involved buying a Cria, or baby Alpaca,
and board it on her farm while we "learned the ropes".
This would give us a good reason to keep visiting the
farm and asking even more questions.
"Herd Health Day" became another turning point in our
learning experience. Now mind you, Kathy has about 30
Alpacas and at that time one very large Llama. We
volunteered to come and help during this monthly process
including weighing, inoculations and general healthcare.
We survived. Tired, dirty, but still filled with
the clincher to the idea came the day we found out that
our CPA was in the business...in a big way. It seems
that Brion Smoker had seen the light and taken advantage
of a low interest farm loan to buy a whole herd and had
started a new business himself
(Sweet Valley Suris) If
he thought it was a good idea, we must be on the right
So our search for an appropriate property began, slowly
at first. But then as the Spring of 2008 came around,
momentum began to increase. By early Summer, we had
visited a dozen or so farms after viewing hundreds on
line. Then the planets seemed to align, as our lease on
my other business was to come to an end in August. We
finally found a property that allowed us to bring the
business back home, keep our two sons in their same
school district and have appropriate space for Alpacas.
We were on