Getting to know alpacas

Staff Writer
Echo Pilot

Thanks to my mother, who is visiting from Minnesota, we visited a new place today. She had read about local alpaca farms in Hagerstown magazine. So we decided to try to visit one.

After reaching Sarah Donahoe of Long Acres Alpaca Farm (http://www.longacresalpacafarm.com/) by phone, we arranged an informal tour. Just driving to the foothills of the Allegheny Mountains was a treat for us. And when we arrived at the alpaca farm lane in the Mercersburg area, we were impressed.

The 130-acre farm is on gorgeous property and is immaculately maintained. The alpacas captivated us at first sight.

Sarah greeted us after we exited our vehicle. We chatted a bit, and she explained that we could just look around, or we could get an hour-long tour for $20. Seeing how enthralled everyone was, I quickly agreed to the tour.

Sarah was an excellent tour guide. Breeding and caring for alpacas is one of her and her husband’s loves. Hence she was able to seamlessly provide us with a wealth of information, answer the little girls’ persistent questions, show us around the barns and introduce us to the animals.

I was unsure how interested my older children would be. But when my 13-year-old daughter crouched down with some hay in her hand, only to have a baby alpaca get close and personal, her radiant smile verified that visiting Long Acres was a hit. My 11-year-old son also enjoyed not only petting and feeding the animals, but spinning alpaca fiber into yarn.

My mother was practically giddy with enthusiasm. Not only did she find the animals adorable and fun, but she thoroughly enjoyed watching the grandchildren excitedly interact with the animals.

The final stop was the gift shop, of course. Because there are only an estimated 200,000 alpacas in the United States, alpaca products are high-priced. But just to touch the silky stuffed animals or to stroke the locally knitted gloves was a pleasure.

I was charmed that the skeins of yarn were labeled with the name and photograph of the animal that provided the fiber.

I hope to return to Long Acres Alpaca Farm with a homeschool field trip group sometime this fall. Perhaps by then I will have saved up enough money for some alpaca gloves.