Alpacas are quiet, gentle and curious animals, slightly smaller than their camelid cousin, the llama. Indigenous to the Andes of South America, these herd animals graze on pasture grass or browse blackberry bushes and low tree limbs. Fleece colors range from white and light fawn to brown, mahogany, rose gray, silver, and black, and many shades in between.
Having never owned lifestock before, we carefully considered the implications of getting involved in the alpaca business. We looked beyond the doe-eyes and the cute babies to the business model and the daily tasks, and agreed that the 'alpaca lifestyle' appealed to us on multiple levels.
Our two-year search for farm property resulted in an accessible and beautiful location in Eugene, Oregon, just 35 miles from Mike's birthplace of Oakridge. We knew within 10 minutes of walking onto the property that this was the farm we were looking for. We readied the 1890s-era barn and pens, and after agisting (boarding) our alpacas for three years at two mentor farms, we transported them to their new home. See photos and notes of our beginnings on our blog. And for more recent notes and updates, visit our FaceBook page.
The plan is for A Spinner's Barn (our former gift shop) to open again in the Fall of 2021 as a Maker's Space for Fiber Artists. Whether carding and prepping raw fiber, spinning and knitting, creating felted pieces, or dyeing, we will make it up as we go along. Classes will be offered as well as group knitting and spinning circles.
We look forward once again to scheduling Open Farm Days a few times a year, and also hosting school groups, senior residents, foreign students, families, and other visitors as they come to enjoy our "living postcard."
"Agisting" is an Olde English term for "boarding." Here at Aragon Alpacas we have a few agisting clients ~ folks who do not live on a farm but want to own alpacas. Their animals are included in our herd and are treated with the same daily care for a minimal monthly fee. Any necessary veterinary visits and shearing costs are the responsibility of the owner; and there is a birthing fee for cria born to agisted females. That's how we began this adventure!
Alpacas are fleece animals — that is the harvest of our farming business. Aragon Alpacas began breeding toward fineness of dark-colored fleece, but for hand-spinning, we recognize that light colors are very dyeable and desirable, too. And Nature has a way of surprising us!
Shearing Day is our Harvest Day, producing a bounty of fleece for processing and for sale to artisans. A few fleeces are skirted for shows, others sorted for spinning. Raw fiber is desired by hand-spinners — some reserve a particular fleece ahead of time — or it may be sent to a mini-mill for machine-processing into roving, batts, or yarn. Small mills are often are often located on alpaca farms, so the fiber is in skilled hands. There are also a few fiber co-ops in North America to promote this home-grown resource.
Alpaca fleeces are eligible for entry into the Black Sheep Gathering's Wool Show & Sale to be evaluated with hand-spinning in mind, and we often enter several of ours. The next BSG is scheduled for June 2022.
A Spin-Off is a simple and easy way to get an expert spinner's objective evaluation of our fleeces so we can measure the succes of our breeding progam and herd management. So we will enter prime fleeces in the next Alpaca Association of Western Oregon's Spin-Off.
The alpaca industry is so new in the United States that owners and veterinarians are continually learning and sharing information in our literal grass-roots network. The sole purpose of groups such as the North West Camelid Foundation is to fund research for these unique animals.
Alpacas were declared "livestock" by the U.S. government in 2008, further enhancing their asset value. Come visit us if you are near Eugene, Oregon. Or search online to find farms in your area and go meet alpacas for yourself.