Next weekend, farms in Cartersville and Adairsville will invite the public to meet their herds and learn more about alpacas — a cousin to the llama in the camelid family.
With roots in South America, the alpaca is quickly gaining popularity in North America. The alpaca is raised for its prized fiber and both Bartow County farms are currently undergoing tremendous growth.
Southern Estate Alpacas in Adairsville is owned and operated by Jerry and Liz Bates along with their son Tripp. They began their farm four years ago with the dream of retiring to raise alpacas full time. As of last week, the Bates are halfway there.
“Our farm motto is, ‘Pursuing our dreams so we can help you start yours.’ And so our dream was to have Liz as a full-time alpaca farmer where she can work with the fiber and the shows and just be there 24/7 with the alpacas. That was our dream when we bought the farm in Adairsville and just this past week we got to that point,” Jerry Bates said. “Liz is a full-time alpaca farmer now and we’ve got 63 alpacas on our farm. We had probably about 20-something last time, so we’ve doubled our herd in the past year and we’ve got 18 babies on the ground that are as cute as can be.”
Now that Liz is working full time on the farm, Southern Estate Alpacas will be offering tours for school field trips and home schoolers. They also are ironing out details with Barnsley Gardens to have guests day trip to their farm and carry local alpaca fiber items in the resort gift shop.
In Cartersville, just off Mission Road, Jason and Laura Herr are raising their own herd at Deer Hollow Alpaca Farm. The Herrs too are seeing growth and continue to build their business with a focus on quality, finding that strong pedigrees result in the finest fiber.
“Five years ago we started outwith fivefemale alpacas to use as our foundation herd. At the time this seemedlike a large herd to us since we had the‘learn-as-you-go’ approach to alpaca farming. Currently we have 15 foundation females anda total of22on our farm,” Jason Herr said. “Our goal is to maintain a smaller herdsize than the average farm,probably never more than 30 at any time. Wehave made thisdecision so that we can spend quality time training and maintaining each and every alpaca.
“The goal of our industry is toproduce alpacas with superior fleececharacteristics which in turn create a highquality fiber that rivals cashmere, angora and wool.The alpacaspedigree andourbreeding selections are a large part of thatcontinued improvementprocess.”
The Bates and the Herrs will be on site for National Alpaca Farm Days to share with guests and introduce them to their herds. Both farms also are interested in teaching children about their specific type of agriculture as well as adults about the essentials of starting an alpaca farm.
“National Alpaca Farm Days is a great opportunityforour guests to see the alpacas, pet them and learn about their history,” Jason Herr said. “We spend time with all of our guests showing them our farm, the alpacas and answering any questions that they may have.
“We are excited to introduce alpacas to anyone that is curious about them, wants an opportunity to see or pet one, and of course anyone looking to invest in alpacas or purchase alpaca products.”
Southern Estate Alpacas is located at 85 Bailey Road in Adairsville and will be open Saturday and Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m.
Deer Hollow Alpaca Farm, 15 Hunt Club Lane, Cartersville, will be open to the public Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Both farms have homemade items for sale crafted from alpaca fiber, including sweaters, socks, hats and gloves.
For more information, visit www.nationalalpacafarmdays.com, www.southernestatealpacas.com or www.deerhollowfarm.com.