By Celeste Baumgartner
COLLINSVILLE, Ohio – National Alpaca Farm Days are coming up the last weekend in September. In about its 15th year, this is a weekend when alpaca farms all over the country, large and small, invite people to come and visit the alpacas.
“We encourage farms to do something,” said Robin Gifford, executive director of the Alpaca Owners Association, Inc. (AOA). “Some are small, just a few alpacas in the backyard. Others go all out. They have activities, guided tours, selfie photo stations and more. It’s a fun time to introduce people to alpacas because they’re just curious, amazing animals.”
The Howard Family Ranch in Ohio goes all out. They open their farm, which also has llamas, horses, chickens and goats. Guests can enjoy a free hayride, and visit and hand-feed the alpacas, which are wandering about. Alpaca products will be on sale.
“They can take an alpaca on a walk through an obstacle course,” Cindy Howard said. “We have concessions where guests can buy items to support the camelid rescue; we have a couple of local artists who set up spinning displays. In the past, we’ve had a kiss-the-llama booth, different photo opportunities, and pony rides.
“People can spend time walking through the barn visiting the chickens; they can walk out to the field and just be with the animals,” she said. “We really like to participate in National Alpaca Days to share the love we have for all of these animals with the community and spread education and awareness about camelids (animals such as llamas and alpacas) and how they act.”
About the time of the first National Alpaca Days celebration, Cindy and Paul Howard and their four children were living in a small house in Middletown, Ohio. The couple took time to pray together, and during one of these times, Paul was inspired that they needed to make a change in their lives.
“A little after that, he told me he felt we should buy a farm and raise alpacas,” Cindy Howard said. “I didn’t know what an alpaca was.”
Now the family owns a multi-faceted alpaca farm. They run a rescue for camelids. They take in fosters and adoptions from those situations.
“We’ve even had the sheriff’s office call for us to pick up an animal,” she said. “In addition, we have a small breeding program for our show animals. We run a therapy program. Pre-COVID, we would go to several nursing homes, Alzheimer’s units, hospices, libraries, and preschools and take the animals to visit and be utilized for therapy. We have not picked that up since COVID.”
About 40 alpacas roam Howard’s farm. They have a shelter in the pasture and a large barn for the cold of winter. Everyone in the Howard family is involved, including the four kids, Wesley, William, Vanessa and Wallace. Wesley and Vanessa show in the county and state fair and throughout the state at camelid shows. And come September, they celebrate.
“We try to have a really good time during National Alpaca Farm Days,” Cindy Howard said.
The celebration at The Howard Family Ranch, 5309 Hamilton Eaton Road, Collinsville, will be Sept. 23-25. Friday hours are 6 p.m.-9 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m.-4 p.m., and Sunday 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
To find an alpaca farm in your area, visit www.alpacainfo.com, click on “Events” and “National Alpaca Farm Days.” Then scroll down to “Find a Participating Farm.”
Located in Lincoln, Neb., the AOA is the world’s largest alpaca association, with around 4,000 members and more than 280,000 alpacas in its registry database.