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Fiber of the Gods weaves its way into Mt. Washington Valley

Two local alpaca farms celebrate National Alpaca Farm Day

Alpaca fiber is so soft it can be worn next to skin, as modeled here by Cinnamon.  Felicia Sienkiewicz. (click for larger version)
October 07, 2010
Foss Mountain Farm Alpacas of Eaton and Herd of Dreams (Lucy Farm) of North Conway held an open house at the newest alpaca farm at the Lucy Farm on West Side Road to celebrate National Alpaca Farm Day this past Sept. 25 and 26.

"Farms all over the country are having open houses on these days. The open house is a way for people to come to the farm and see the alpacas. Many people still think they are llamas, though they are from the same family," explains Lana Nickerson who, with Dick Dole, owns Foss Mountain Farm Alpacas.

Alpacas are from the camelid family, akin to camels, llamas and vicunas. They are known for their social behavior and the natural fiber they produce. The warmth, beauty and softness of their fiber is largely what catches the attention of breeders. And the public, too; more and more people are knitting these days, says Nickerson.

NICKERSON AND DOLE were attracted to alpacas and opened their farm in 2000. Originally looking to raise goats, they fell in love with alpacas at the Barnstable County Fair on Cape Cod. They moved to Eaton and opened up their alpaca farm, which, by the way, does include a goat, ragdoll cats, livestock guardian dogs and muscovy ducks.

The Foss Mountain Farm has both male and female alpacas. "The male alpaca usually produces more fleece; the girls are busy taking care of the babies," says Nickerson. A female is pregnant for 11 to 11-and-a-half months and has one baby per litter, she explains. Babies are up and about very quickly because they are a herd animal and have to learn fast.

"Alpacas are social animals," Nickerson explained, "but they are shy about being touched, though they're not as threatened by children." She noted that if one keeps their arms folded, alpacas are more likely to approach. A person's arms are threatening to an alpaca, she adds.

Alpacas come in many different shades, from shades of white, beige, fawn, to grey, silver, tan, brown and black. The alpaca organization says there are 22 different colors, but we register 12 colors, says Nickerson. "They are picking hairs, there are really shades of colors, light grey, medium grey, silver grey," she says.

Alpacas are easy to feed. "The alpacas eat grass, hay and grain. There is a special grain for alpacas, which you can buy at Paris Farmers Union," says Nickerson.

Nickerson and Dole have named their alpacas after songs or singers. Their herds boast names like Moondance, Stevie Ray Vaughn, who is called Stevie Ray, Magic Man, Private Dancer, Silver Belle, Cherry Bomb, Purple Rain and Bon Jovi.

ALPACAS ARE RAISED for breeding and for the fabulous fiber they produce. Presently, Nickerson sells the fiber products right out of her living room. The fiber is used like wool products to make sweaters, scarves, blankets, gloves and hats, the major difference between the two being that alpaca fiber is so soft it can be worn right next to the skin. Ancient Incans thought the fleece was fiber from the gods.

Nickerson also sells the alpacas, which is how she met new alpaca farmer, Mary Gaudette, of the Lucy family farm.

A year ago last August, Gaudette purchased her three alpaca girls from Nickerson. Gaudette, with her son Randy and daughter-in-law Kim, had come back to the Lucy family farm to carry on the family farming tradition. "We built a brand new barn and thought we would raise cows," says Gaudette. "But then my son Randy researched further and was enamored of the alpacas."

Recently, Gaudette added two boy alpacas to the herd. "The idea here is to do a family farm. My parents passed away last year and the kids have come back to run the farm."

The 125-acre farm provides for many opportunities. In addition to the alpacas, the Gaudettes have several chickens, three goats, two horses, a mini-horse, a mini-donkey and the family cats and dogs. Gaudette says they will also sell alpaca products, farm fresh eggs, hay, manure, Christmas trees and hope to start a vegetable garden market.

"We are looking to the future. That's the dream," she says.

For more information on alpacas, their products and farming, visit the Foss Mountain Alpacas website: www.fossmtnfarm.com, or for the Herd of Dreams at Lucy Farm site, visit gaudettebooks@roadrunner.com.

Littleton Chmber
Varney Smith
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