Alpacas Bring Joy To Owners, Visitors
From organically produced foods to breeding white-tailed deer, numerous options are available and thriving locally for residents that have invested both interest and time into alternative agriculture practices.
Jeff and Beth Hull of 595 Dyer Road, Mercersburg, opted for their little slice of heaven when they purchased a farm in Fulton County 10 years ago. Naming their operation located on the Mason- Dixon Line “Cherry Run Farm,” the Hull family felt it was time to expand their business interests, which at the time consisted of BJ’s Custom Creations, an embroidery and printing shop in Hagerstown, Md. Their ever-evolving ideas and philosophies in turn launched a farming operation surrounding the planting and harvesting of Christmas trees.
“With our trees in the ground, we were still wanting some sort of livestock, so we started investigating many options. One day, Jeff’s mother brought us a pair of alpaca socks and told us we should look into the idea of alpacas in more detail. We did and felt this could be the right choice for us because it was an animal the entire family would be able to enjoy,” said Beth, making reference to the couple’s young daughters, Rachel, 5, and Ava, 7.
“It also complimented our clothing/embroidery business. It would be a great draw for our trees, and we could eventually open an alpaca shop at the farm, which we now have,” she added.
Meanwhile, down on 733 McKibbin Lane in Warfordsburg, Buck Valley Alpacas was launched not long after John and Kathorine Wood relocated to Pennsylvania in 2004. Having purchased eight acres of farmland in Buck Valley, the Wood family has seen their farming operation expand from five very young Huacaya fiber males to a multi service farm offering breedings, boarding, birthing, farm sitting and training for alpacas and their owners.
According to the Woods, the fiber males were purchased as a means of learning firsthand about herd health, feeding and the care of alpacas. A mere three years later, the Woods began developing their breeding program, which brought them their first female purchases – Selena and Omori.
After much trial and error, Buck Valley Alpacas now specializes in great quality Huacaya alpacas offering greys of all colors and patterns. The goal, of course, is to boast an outstanding reputation outside of Fulton County’s borders.
“I think we’re off to a good start with our young herdsire Dreamer, who just this year took a fourthplace ribbon at MaPaca Jubilee and a fifth at ABOA Nationals in the fleece shows ... . He’ll be introduced into our breeding program next year,” said Kathorine Wood.
Cherry Run Farm also places much emphasis on show quality breeding stock, with its herd focusing on quality grey Huacayas. In fact, the entire Hull family has taken their business on the road and spend their weekends during the spring and fall seasons travelling across the country to compete in alpaca shows in an effort to promote the farm’s breeding program.
“We offer animals for sale that range from pet quality to show stock with many ribbons at national level shows. When visitors come to our farm we strive to offer a family, educational and fun-filled atmosphere that will make visitors want to come again. Our alpaca shop, filled with alpaca bi-products, provides an additional attraction to custumers when they visit,” said the Hulls.
Among the items currently offered at Cherry Run Farm is a complete line of alpaca enthusiast farm apparel developed by the Hull family. Found online at www.pacagear.com, Pacagear often incorporates woven alpaca fleece into the product.
Certainly not to be outdone, Buck Valley Alpacas also showcases a shop filled with one-of-a-kind, handmade items on its farm. Overseen by the Woods and friend and fellow crafter Catherine Bryan, the shop offers handmade soap that has been over felted and organically dyed by Kathorine Wood with alpaca fleece straight from the Buck Valley Alpacas herd. In addition, shoppers can also find wooden toys and blue birdhouses crafted by John Wood; doggie beds stuffed with alpaca fleece, handbeaded and felted necklaces; Dog E Dudz & Accessories clothing line designed for man’s best friend; and felted vests, hats and purses created from the herd’s fleece.
“When Kathorine first told me about her venture to raise alpacas, I never dreamed I’d be so involved in the actual process. This started a whole new opportunity and challenge for me,” said Bryan, who operates under the name of Crafty Collectibles. “Designing and creating one-of-a-kind alpaca fleece purses as well as crocheting many miscellaneous items from the Buck Valley Alpaca yards was just the beginning of a new venture for me. I’m looking forward to designing new creations for the shop in the very near future.”
Even though owning and overseeing an alpaca farm has both its ups and downs ranging from much anticipated births to 7 a.m. feedings and washing down the runs twice daily, the pleasure associated with the daily operations far outweighs any negatives for the Woods.
“My favorite aspect of operating the farm are the smiles on the faces of young and old visitors when Magic comes parading out for her special meet-and-greet with the visitors. Magic has a talent for seeking out those special needs visitors. She’ll cush next to their wheelchair, putting her head in their lap or ever so gentle cush next to a child for those hugs and kisses. We’ve had parents tear up when their child unable to speak will lean into Magic’s side and make sounds that only these two understand,” said Kathorine Wood, who graduated with a master’s degree in special education and still refers to teaching individuals with special needs as her passion in life.
Thinking back over the last six years, the Woods are adamant that alpaca farming is an undertaking they would recommend over and over again. “I know there’s several other reasons people go into alpaca farming, but for us it’s meeting and teaching people about alpacas and being with other breeders who feel as passionate of their alpacas as we do,” concluded the Wood family.
Cherry Run Farm is slated to be open to the public beginning November 26, the day after Thanksgiving, through December 24. Daily hours at the Christmas tree and alpaca farm are Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., and Saturday and Sundays, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Appointments can also be made for any visitors wishing to see the alpacas during off hours by calling 717-294-6115 or e-mail at cherryrun
Buck Valley Alpacas can be reached at 717-294-3711 or by e-mail at KathorineWood@ frontiernet.net. Operating hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Sunday and Monday visits can be arranged by appointment only.
Local residents wishing to learn more about different alternative agriculture enterprises are urged to sign up for a special seminar entitled Income Opportunities Conference for Agricultural Entrepreneurs. To be held at Southern Fulton High School on Saturday, November 13, the event will feature presentations on marketing, financial management and enterprise development. Kicking off at 8 a.m. and concluding at 4 p.m., the workshop will include a morning and afternoon session that include tracks on biomass crops, edible soybeans and oil seed crops; berry production, greenhouse production and high tunnel vegetable production; and sheep, goat and small-scale livestock production.
There is a $30-per-person registration fee, which covers the conference, a hot meal, morning refreshments and handouts. Anyone wishing to preregister for the upcoming event can contact Fulton County extension educator Greg Strait at 717- 485-4111.