By Dave Dahl
Maybe you seek a reason to spend time outdoors in the early autumn. Perhaps you need warm clothing for the winter. Some may enjoy petting and learning about animals. If any of those sound appealing, you may want to visit an alpaca farm during National Alpaca Farm Days.
Set for Sept. 24 and 25, the annual event lets everyone learn about the four-legged animals that produce some of the softest and warmest fleece in the world. Alpaca farmers welcome visitors to their farms for the free weekend event to introduce them to the animals and sell items made from the fiber.
An alpaca farm owner for 14 years, Helen Herman usually sees 100 to 300 visitors during the weekend event at Sugartown Farms, a business she co-owns with her husband, Timm Herman, in Ellicottville. They have participated in the event for at least six years and plan to accept guests from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days.
Located at 6277 Sugartown Road, their farm offers alpaca sweaters, mittens, gloves, socks, hats and blankets.
Many find the fleece a softer and more comfortable alternative to wool because it does not itch.
“It’s a natural fiber and it’s a luxury fiber,” Herman said. “It’s very soft.”
Herman has noticed those who venture to the farms find the animals enchanting.
“Visitors are surprised at how large their eyes are,” she said. “They are very cute-looking.”
Smaller than llamas, alpacas are categorized in the Suri breed or the Huacaya breed. They graze in herds in southern Peru, northern Bolivia, Ecuador and northern Chile.
A camelid species that originated in the Andes Mountains, the alpaca can weigh from 106 to 185 pounds when fully grown. Babies, known as crias, weigh 15 to 18 pounds at birth. The mother usually gives birth to a single cria.
Herman estimated she has 12 crias. Many who visit her farm find the alpaca’s gentle nature makes it an ideal animal for petting.
Other local farms participating in this year’s event include A Slice of Heaven Alpacas at 11144 Pope Road in Randolph, Mager Mountain Alpacas at 69 Mountain View Drive in Little Valley, BearKat Alpacas at 4685 Route 98 in Humphrey, Cozy Cabin Alpaca Farm at 9254 Route 353 in Gowanda and Woodside Farm Alpacas at 12858 Gowanda State Road in Lawtons.
A participant in previous years, Cardinal Acre Alpacas in Little Valley, will be closed for the weekend.
For more info about Alpaca Farm Days, visit www.alpacafarmdays.com.