The Back Story

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Our 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 quickly faded.

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 area. (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...

So 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)  during 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.

The 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 from here?

We 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 research on, we 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. 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 comfortable with. Our 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 enthusiasm.

I think the clincher to the idea came the day we found out that our CPA was in the 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 (A Suri Farm, ltd.)  If he thought it was a good idea, we must be on the right track. 

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 our way...

The Back Story | The Learning Curve
The Cast of Characters | What's with the Name | Connections
Something for Everyone | WhoWhatWhenWhereWhy | Blog |
Home Sweet Home

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