RANDOLPH - National Alpaca Farm Days are being celebrated today and Sunday, and A Slice of Heaven Alpacas is opening its doors for guests.
Sue and Mike Bean, proprietors of A Slice of Heaven Alpacas, have recently expanded their herd to 23, and are eager to share their enthusiasm for alpaca with guests during the two-day event.
"Alpaca farms across the nation open their doors for visitors to come learn about alpacas," Sue said. "Most people don't know what they are, or what they produce. They learn the cost of having an alpaca, the tax benefits and such, and they get to see and touch the animals. If a farm also has a shop, like we have, those farms will be opening up their shops, as well. But most people just want to learn about alpacas."
According to Sue, it is a responsibility of alpaca owners to educate the public about alpacas and the many qualities of alpaca fleece.
"The product is phenomenal," Sue said. "If you step in water while wearing alpaca fleece socks, you can go to change them, but by the time you're able to, your foot feels dry but the socks are wet on the outside. A lot of people don't understand how that happens, but the alpaca fiber is hollow, so it's naturally moisture-wicking. It's the most incredible, most comfortable fiber to wear, but many people have never tried on alpaca fleece, so they simply don't know."
In addition to their high-quality fleece, alpaca are classified as green animals, and are very low maintenance as a result. To begin, alpaca have padded feet, so they don't divot pastures the way cattle do. Alpaca only have teeth on their bottom jaw, so instead of ripping grass up to chew, they cut it off at the ground, also preserving pasture. Subsequently, alpaca are herd animals, and keep a community refuse pile, which keeps bacteria and parasites from spreading.
The Beans are looking to promote more than just alpaca fleece during the two-day event, as well. Over the past 15 years, alpaca farming has swept the nation, and Sue and Mike would like to offer tips and suggestions to visitors who might be interested in beginning their own small alpaca operation, much like how the Beans' own farm began.
"There was a farm which was a few miles away from us that bought a few alpaca, and that got us interested in it," Sue said. "To begin, we had no place to keep alpaca, but the farm down the road offered us an animal to be kept at their farm in exchange for work at their farm. I offered to do chores three days a week so I could get to know the alpaca. Eventually, a few months later, we bought another alpaca to keep at that farm. Even though we didn't own a farm at the time, we still got the tax credit just for owning two alpaca. Finally, we were able to get our own farm, and now we own 23 alpacas."
Although the Beans will be promoting the alpaca fleece items in their shop during the weekend event, many alpaca from their herd will be for sale to buyers who are interested in starting or adding to their own farm.
However, for guests who would simply like to try on alpaca fleece, or meet an alpaca in person for the first time, guests will be received from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days. Chili, coffee, tea, cider and doughnuts will be for sale during the event, with all food proceeds going toward the Randolph Community Cupboard. The Beans will also have a bean bag tossing game, where guests can win discounts on their purchases from the gift shop.
"Last year we raised $100 for the community cupboard, and we'd really like to beat that this year," Sue said.
A Slice of Heaven Alpacas is located at 11144 Pope Road in Randolph. Guests may visit the farm's website at www.asliceofheavenalpacas.com or on Facebook by searching A Slice of Heaven Alpacas. Sue and Mike can be reached by telephone at 358-5242 with questions about the event or the gift shop. For more information on National Alpaca Farm Days, nationalalpacafarmdays.com.
"It's fun, it's not a chore to care for the alpacas," Sue said. "Even in the morning, I don't mind. I love going out there every day to see them. They'll rub up against you and give you kisses, and it's a joy to care for them. Everything about keeping an alpaca farm is a dream come true, and we love to share our enthusiasm with anyone who is interested."