By Janet Kehres
Alpacas are becoming more popular on farms. They are a friendly animals and can be found at most county fairs. Some fairgrounds have dedicated a building for alpacas and llamas. Students and adults alike love the furry sociable animals.
One adult who got her start with alpacas at Richland County Fair, now has an alpaca farm. Recently, Julie Myers, owner of the Thornapple Hill farm located south of Shelby, put her alpacas Marz and White Socks on her covered porch to protect them from the rain during their open house.
Myers said she cares about the farm's visitors as well as her dearly loved alpacas. She currently has 12 alpacas on the farm and enjoys each and everyone of them.
She shared the fact the farm was the one on which she grew up and her father had given her the honor of naming the when she was a youngster. She chose Thornapple because her father had to clear so many Thornapple trees on the farm. Her parents sold the farm when they retired and years later, Julie was able to buy the farm and had her parents move in. Her mother was ill, and passed away shortly thereafter.
After her mother passed away, Julie said she needed something to keep her busy. That something was alpacas she saw at the Richland County Fair and it was love at first sight. She stated, "They have such great personalities and they are such a loving animal. Alpacas are easy to care for. They do not require a lot of feed, or a lot of space to roam."
They share the farm with a horse, a few free-range chickens, barn cats, and a dog. The dog, Gabe, is their protector and keeps all predators away from the alpacas because he knows that is his job. "And he is excellent at his job," she shared.
Her alpacas are sheared once a year. Afterward she sorts the fiber by the name of each of the alpacas. It is then shipped to a fiber mill in North Carolina. The company spins the fiber into yarn and ships it back to Myers, who knits and crochets the yarn into scarves, socks and other winter items.
She said "The alpaca fiber is better than wool. It is non-allergenic, can come in several weights, is warmer than wool, has a super absorbency, and best of all, it is made in America.
When a customer chooses an item to purchase, a tag comes along with the item with the name of the alpaca that the fiber came from originally. And each comes with the name of the alpaca and some with a picture of the alpaca that the fiber came from to make the item.
The alpacas provide her with fiber needed to knit and crochet anything she desires to make. She said her mom taught her to knit and crochet when she was growing up. Myers stated, "It is such a great memory of my mom, I decided to make things in homage to her."