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Mom & Daughter Run Alpaca Business

Morgan Stevenson just wanted to learn to crochet. She never imagined she would start raising animals to provide the yarn she needed or that she and her mother, Judy Hoepker, would start a business.
  Their Rolling Oak Alpaca Ranch has grown from three alpacas to 23 since 2011. The mother-daughter team takes care of the Huacaya alpaca herd, processes fiber, dyes yarn, spins and weaves. Later on they knit and crochet the yarn into handmade items for sale.
  “It’s kind of the way we work if we are interested in something,” Hoepker says. “Go big or go home.”
  When Stevenson discovered alpaca yarn and how soft and enjoyable it was to work with, she never wanted to go back to scratchy acrylic yarn again. The problem was she couldn’t find a good local supply of alpaca yarn.
So she purchased three alpacas off Craigslist, and Hoepker agreed she could keep them in her barn and pasture. The women learned as much as they could by attending seminars, classes and a few alpaca shows.
  “The fiber guild helped us learn fiber arts and a shop in Kentucky is where the very first spinning lesson happened. We came home with a spinning wheel, drum carder and a lazy Kate yarn spool holder,” Hoepker says.
  The women process some of the alpaca fleece and send some fleece to commercial processors to be made into felt, roving, yarn, mittens, socks and other wearable items that they sell locally. They also have an Etsy account and sell through Facebook and Instagram.
  They make wine bags and toys out of felted alpaca and wrap felt around goat milk soap, which they also make.
  “It’s our second biggest seller,” Stevenson says of the wrapped soap. “Our biggest seller is dryer balls. They replace dryer sheets. As they beat around the dryer they absorb moisture and eliminate wrinkles and static. They last a long time.”
  Alpaca fiber is hypoallergenic and the dryer balls can be washed and scented with essential oils.
  As the women continue to develop new items to sell, they also share what they know through workshops and classes as more people become interested in raising alpacas.
  “One thing about the alpaca community is that it loves to help out new owners, so we have an extensive friends network,” Stevenson says, noting raising alpacas can create a good home business. “It’s a luxury fiber and just not common.”
  Alpacas are “easy keepers” and “easy on the pasture” and facilities, the women say. The more they learn, the more they want to do.
  In using the fiber from their herd, the women have learned about quality and have become apprentice sorter/graders so they can sort commercially. They also plan to take their alpacas to a new level – in the show ring.
  “We’ve been slowly working our way getting a higher end foundation herd,” Hoepker says. They focus on bloodlines, density, brightness and other features to improve the fiber that they will make into items to sell.
  Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Rolling Oak Alpaca Ranch/ROAR Fibers, 1335 Hall Church Rd., Makanda, Ill. 62958 (Facebook/Instagram; ROAR fibers; www.etsy.com/shop/roarfibers).


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2018 - Volume #42, Issue #1