People are always asking how we got started in the alpaca business, so I thought I would address that question here. It's been a long and enjoyable journey.
In 1996, both of my in-laws died, leaving us the family farm in Nooksack, comprised of 40 acres, a house and barn and assundry outbuildings. It was a former dairy farm, and was extremely run down, since the folks had been in their 80's. We tried our best to help them, spending a couple of weekends a month with them, cleaning up after storms, replacing broken windows, repairing fencelines. You know the things. But, it needed daily attention. After their passing, we spent more time, trying to clean up the place, with many, many trips to the dump.
In 1997, I was in a Doctor's office, reading a Sunset Magazine. I came upon a short article about alpacas and thought I had died and gone to heaven. Never had I seen such an adorable critter! I looked around to make sure no one was watching, and I ripped the article out of the magazine. That night, I handed the article to my husband to read, thinking he would laugh at me. Having been raised on a dairy farm, he knew livestock and the possibilities, and his reaction was possitive. We started our research that night. This was followed by many visits to local alpaca farms. Alan had a four page list of questions that he would take with him, and boy, did those people have to work when we came a calling.
In 1998, we purchased 6 alpacas, 4 huacayas and 2 suris. The farm was not ready for them, and we were still working in the Seattle area, so we agisted (boarded) them at a farm in Ferndale.
Before buying the alpacas, we created a 5 year plan. We had two sons to put through college. We knew we couldn't retire for at least 5 years, but we felt that the alpaca business would provide us with a way to retire early, and we could live a good life with them. We would keep the alpacas at the boarding farm, continue to work on our farm, and continue to make money at our respective jobs.
Is there ever a 5 year plan that doesn't get revised? I had to quit my job due to a vision disability. Yikes. I was able to collect short term disability of awhile, but not long. Then, the people we were agisting with anounced they were getting divorced and selling their herd. We would have to be out in 60 days. Actually, to be honest, they did not announce. We drove up to their place one day, and there was a For Sale sign in the drive. They never told us about the divorce. We heard it from other breeders.
At that point, we decided that I would move to the farm, along with the 21 alpacas we now had. Alan would continue to work at his job as an Architect, and come up Friday afternoon and stay until Sunday afternoon. It would only be for a year of so. NOT. One year turned into 7.
This is a long story, so this is the end of Part I. To be continued.