Two Orleans farms celebrate National Alpaca Farm Days

Posted 27 September 2014 at 12:00 am

Photo by Sue Cook – Simon poses for the camera at Stoney Meadows Alpacas.

By Sue Cook, staff reporter

Two Orleans County alpaca farms are holding open houses this weekend to celebrate National Alpaca Farm Days. It is an opportunity for the public to see the animals up close and learn from their farmers.

Tacha Gennarino and her husband John own Genna-rations Farm in Kendall. Tacha has been happily educating people about the alpacas and encouraging questions to help people understand what happens at their farm.

“We want people to come in and educate them on why we raise alpacas, about the fiber industry in America and how to take care of them. We let the kids feed them and pet them,” said Gennarino.

The Gennarinos began their farm in 2003 with three animals. They moved to Kendall after needing more space. They use their pack for fiber and breeding purposes.

Photo by Sue Cook

The female alpacas at Genna-rations Farm enjoy some lunch together.

Genna-rations teamed up with three other farms, including one from Monroe County, one from Genesee as well as Stoney Meadows Alpacas in Holley. They have created a mini fiber-education trail.

“The trail we have today, people can go to four different farms and see the different operations,” Gennarino said. “Here, we’re teaching people about the processing of fiber. We teach what we do once the animal has grown it all year long from shearing right into when it’s made into a product that can be used by fiber artists and textile mills.”

Gennarino also explained to people how alpacas and llamas are different animals. The most obvious difference is the size with llamas running much larger. Llamas can average 400 pounds, while alpacas can be about 150 pounds. Llamas can be almost 6 feet tall and alpacas are about 4 feet. Llamas also have an underlayer to their fiber.

Gennarino submits her fiber to the Northeast Alpaca Fiber Pool. It gets graded for quality, then farms can purchase items made in the United States out of the submitted fiber. This year Tacha is beginning to make items at the farm herself to add to her store. She has made boot cuffs, scarves, fingerless gloves and is starting on teddy bears.

Photo by Sue Cook

Genna-rations farms sells items made from alpaca fibers that demonstrate how versatile it is.

“Alpacas come in 22 different colors and their fiber is water repellant and flame retardant naturally,” she said, explaining how the material is great for both practical and fashionable clothing, especially in wet or winter weather.

Theresa Jewell opened Stoney Meadows Alpacas and Fiber Boutique in Holley today to provide a similar education to the public. Her farm does not use the animals for breeding. Instead, Jewell focuses on the art side of raising alpacas and other animals to create fibers. Jewell takes the process from start to finish at her farm from shearing to spinning to making clothing, toys and jewelry. She does send some of her fibers out to mills as well.

When she was pregnant with her daughter almost 16 years ago, Jewell saw a magazine article in a doctor’s office about alpacas during the height of their popularity. Many of the animals cost as much as $20,000, which caused them to be much more of a rich person’s hobby.

“Thank goodness for me the market in alpacas dropped,” she said. “For me it was wonderful because I was able to purchase alpaca for just a couple thousand. It helped me as a blue-collar person. Before only doctors, lawyers, and people with a great deal of money at their disposal could afford it.”

Theresa Jewell demonstrates her spinning wheel for visitors. She is using fiber from her black alpaca Merlin.

Her farm also includes cashmere and angora goats that mingle with the alpacas. She encourages the public to bring their kids because many of the animals want to be petted and are a good size for children to approach them without being afraid. Because she raised many of them from a very young age, even bottle-feeding some, the animals are very friendly and enjoy human attention.

“Today for our open house, we invite the community to come see the animals up close and to get their hands in the fiber and feel it to truly understand why we’re doing this and what it really is to wear and have organic fiber,” Jewell said. “I really pride myself on the art side of fiber and I do consider myself a fiber artist.”

Because of her variety of animals, Jewell creates items that blend several organic types of fibers along with some items that also contain acrylic yarn. She has many cold weather items for sale including winterwear and blankets. She also teaches spinning lessons that people can create on spinning wheels that she has using fiber from the animals on the farm.

Jewell also hand dyes some of the fiber in bright colors.

For the National Alpaca Farm Days, Jewell is demonstrating many of her techniques and skills, while letting the public meet the animals that the materials come from.

“My farm is more of a petting zoo,” she said. “It’s very clean and it’s a different atmosphere than a ranch. They’re not livestock, they’re my pets and I love them. I like my farm to be open and comfortable where kids can walk through and feel comfortable and be able to pet the animals and get a feel of what farming is like.”

Both farms will be open tomorrow from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. for National Alpaca Farm Days. Genna-rations Farm is located in Kendall at 1536 West Kendall Rd. Stoney Meadows Alpacas is located in Holley at 16038 Glidden Rd.