Alpaca farms all across the country welcome visitors for National Alpaca Farm Days every September to see and learn about these tranquil and majestic animals. There are several participating farms in Western Washington State.
About the Alpaca Owners Association
Located in Lincoln, Nebraska, the not-for-profit Alpaca Owners Association, Inc. (AOA) is the world’s largest alpaca association with around 4,000 members and over 270,000 alpacas in its registry database. Created in 2014, AOA serves it members to facilitate their success within the alpaca industry, as well as to foster a sustainable North American alpaca industry with high ethical principles for alpaca owners, alpaca breeders, and those who design, produce, and sell alpaca related products and services.
The AOA represents all facets of the North American alpaca industry. It provides information and education about the operation of sustainable alpaca businesses, helps to market alpaca products, and promotes scientific research to benefit the alpaca industry.
The organization hosts three national events a year: the National Alpaca Shows (Indiana), Natural Fiber Extravaganza & National Fleece Show (Tennessee), and National Alpaca Farm Days (across the country).
More info about the AOA: https://www.alpacainfo.com/
About National Alpaca Farm Days
One of the best ways to fully appreciate the gentle alpaca is to visit them at the farms and ranches. You’ll find that alpaca owners love to talk about their animals and show them off! During alpaca days, AOA member farms open their doors to the public for tours, demos, and shopping for alpaca products.
Activities will vary at individual farms, but listed below are some of the features of National Alpaca Farm Days.
- Learn about alpacas from dedicated owners and breeders
- Meet alpacas up-close and feel the soft alpaca fleece
- Alpacas are gentle animals who love to have their picture taken!
- Tour the farm and see live demonstrations or experience hands-on activities
- Shop for alpaca products
- 2021 National Alpaca Farm Days | Facebook
- More info: https://www.facebook.com/alpacaassociation/
Alpacas are members of the camelid family. You’re probably familiar with the ones with humps; the dromedary camel with one hump (Camelus dromedarius) and the Bactrian camel with two humps (the domesticated Bactrian, C. bactrianus and the wild Bactrian camel C. ferus), which are native to parts of Africa and Asia.
However, there are four other camelids without humps, all indigenous to South America: llamas (Lama glama) and alpacas (Vicugña pacos), which are both domesticated. Still in the wild are guanacos (L. guanacoe) and vicunas (V. vicugna).
People often confuse alpacas with llamas, though they are distinctly different animals. Llamas are twice the weight of the average alpaca, so are often used as pack animals for carrying heavy loads.
The much smaller alpacas typically weigh between 100 to 200 pounds. They have been raised as domestic livestock for thousands of years. These quiet, docile animals are raised primarily for their soft and luxurious fleece. The Alpaca (vicugña pacos) comes in two types: huacaya (pronounced wah‑KI‑ah) and suri (SOO‑ree).
- Huacayas alpacas, the more common type, account for about 90% of all alpacas. Their soft, fluffy cost gives these alpacas a teddy bear-like appearance.
- Suris, on the other hand, grow silky, lustrous fleece that drapes gracefully in beautiful pencil-locks.
Shearing an alpaca produces roughly five to ten pounds of fleece per animal, per year. Unlike sheep’s wool, alpaca fleece contains no lanolin (which can be irritating to some people). This makes it easier to clean before spinning into yarn.
The extremely soft fleece, often compared to cashmere, is desired for its fineness, softness, light-weight, durability, excellent thermal qualities, and luster. Alpaca fleece is highly sought-after by both cottage-industry artists (hand spinners, knitters, weavers, etc.) as well as the commercial fashion industry. In addition to selling the fleece to producers, many alpaca farms operate a retail and/or online store selling alpaca end-products.
Alpaca fleece can be turned into a wide array of products from yarn and apparel to blankets. You can find alpaca wool sweaters, hats, gloves, scarves, and socks. (I bought an alpaca beanie at a market years ago and can attest that the wool is extremely soft (extremely soft), fine, and warm.)
For more information, watch the following YouTube video “Inside the Alpaca Industry” by Alpaca Owners Association, Inc.
Alpaca Farms in Washington State
Please check each farms website for details about visiting during Alpaca Farm Days and other times throughout the year. Many farms have online stores selling a variety of llama woven goods and related products.
(Listed alphabetically by city)
Strawberry Fields Alpaca Ranch, 13924 McElroy Rd, Arlington, WA 98223. Hours: Saturday and Sunday 10 am – 5 pm. See and play with alpacas, learn about their purpose in the clothing industry, animal husbandry, and more.
Cedar Creek Alpacas, 182 McNichols Rd, Cook, WA 98605. Hours: Saturday-Sunday: 11 am to 5 pm. Meet the newest baby alpacas, bring a picnic lunch, watch live fiber arts demonstrations in their new studio and shop for fun alpaca gifts in the farm store.
Sandollar Farms Alpacas & Pyrs, 2001 S Washington St, Kennewick, WA 99337. Hours: Saturday: 11:00am to 3:00pm. Sunday: Noon to 3PM. Spend a lovely fall afternoon in the beautiful sunshine with alpacas and Great Pyrenees guardian dogs (take selfies), the chickens, the bees, etc. and top it off with a tour of the boutique! The alpacas will be waiting to meet you.
La Finca Alpacas, 19201 NE Gabriel Rd, Yacolt, WA 98675. Hours: Saturday: 11am to 4pm. Come meet new babies, enter the annual NAFD drawing to win two fiber quality males. Shearing demonstrations are planned. Alpaca products will be available as well. You will be pleasantly surprised how wonderful alpacas are as a business, as pets, and even as 4-H animals.
La Vida Alpaca and Tahoma Vista Fiber Mill, 15631 159th Ln SE, Yelm, WA 98597. Hours: This weekend, Saturday-Sunday 10 am – 4 pm. Otherwise, by appointment only. Hosting several area farms at National Alpaca Farm Days. See the fiber processing mill to show you how luxurious alpaca fiber is turned into yarn and household items. Shop from five local farms in the ‘Paca Place Market boutique for all things alpaca.
Find more participating alpaca farms across the country: National Alpaca Farm Days (alpacainfo.com)
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