2009-09-17 / Local & State

Local Farms Hold Open House For National Alpaca Farm Days

Everyone's talking about alpacas, from David Letterman to the Wall Street Journal. On September 26 and 27, area residents will have a chance to find out why during the annual National Alpaca Farm Days. Four local farms will be opening their barn doors with featured events such as spinning and weaving demonstrations, fashion shows, and children's activities. Visitors will be able to get close to the animals, learn the basics about feeding and care, and experience the alpaca farming lifestyle. Scheduled events and directions to the farms are posted the on the Alpacas of Cumberland Valley Web site, www.cvalpacas.com. Alpacas of Cumberland Valley is a loosely affiliated group of local farms, including Cherry Run Farm located in Mercersburg; Long Acres Farm, Mercersburg; Ragged Edge Farm, Chambersburg; Stone Meadow Alpacas, Waynesboro; and Top Knot'ch Farm of Waynesboro.

What's an alpaca?

Alpacas, cousins to the llama, are beautiful, intelligent animals. They weigh between 150 and 200 pounds and stand 36 inches at the withers. Alpacas produce a luxurious fiber that is stronger, warmer and lighter than wool and is frequently compared to cashmere. Currently, there are more than 130,000 registered alpacas in North America.

Why the buzz?

Besides offering a rewarding way of life, alpacas are a growing alternative to traditional investments in a turbulent economic environment. No wonder, considering that alpacas are lowmaintenance, easy to raise, light livestock whose owners see returns through breeding, stud fees and selling alpaca fiber. Many people feel the animals hold their value better than the unpredictable stock market. Articles describing this phenomenon appeared in the Wall Street Journal ("When Stocks Tank, Some Investors Stampede to Alpacas and Turn to Drink" on October 3, 2008) and Washington Times ("Falling in Love with Alpacas" on June 8, 2009). According to the Washington Post article, "Old MacDonald Wouldn't Recognize This Farm" dated January 3, 2009, a growing number of farmers are giving up traditional livestock and taking up the alpaca. It states, "Agricultural officials say that nearly all of the farmers in southern Maryland have cut the number of livestock animals they keep on their farms and some have replaced them altogether. They eat less than livestock and they don't have to be slaughtered for farmers to harvest their woolly fur, which fetches a good price at market."

Even David Letterman joked last fall that he was not worried about the economy because he invested his money in an alpaca ranch. The increasing exposure in the national media and celebrity interest are drawing more people from high-paced, stressful careers into a simpler, peaceful way of living. One in which they see tangible evidence of their investment, while falling in love with the gentle, curious creatures.

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