National Alpaca Day brings crowds to Hillsborough farm
Nearly a thousand Orange County residents celebrated National Alpaca Day at Perry Farm Alpacas in Hillsborough on Saturday.
“People don’t get to see alpacas very often, so having an opportunity to come down to the farm, see them in their natural, though farm environment, people seem to enjoy it,” said Jennifer Perry, an owner of the farm.
The visitors fed and pet the 24 alpacas, played with more than 20 chickens and enjoyed the live music. They also perused tents selling alpaca fleece products such as socks, dryer balls and fluffy mini alpacas.
The farm has Huacaya alpacas, which are distinguished by their wavy, crimped and lofty wool.
“(An alpaca) feels like a really fuzzy, squishy blanket,” said Bailey Anne Brodd, a 16-year-old alpaca aficionado from Raleigh.
The South American animal is known to be more docile and domesticated than its bigger cousin, the llama.
“They look so calm, with all these people touching them,” said Barbara Covitz, who attended the event with her husband. “They’re very serene.”
The chickens, however, were the main attraction for some attendees. Jessica Consigli’s 5-year-old son ran after the chickens for more than an hour.
“It’s a free event, and he’s never even seen a chicken before,” she said.
According to Jennifer Perry, by pecking and eating bugs and worms, the chickens eat a parasite carried by whitetail deer, which can be lethal for alpacas.
Additionally, volunteers from Cedar Ridge High School’s Future Farmers of America, a national organization for agricultural education, held a fundraiser for their club while also greeting the guests and helping in the parking lot.
“We’re always interested in promoting local agriculture, so that’s why we hooked up here with the alpaca farm,” said Dana Donaldson, the club’s adviser. “They’re small, they’re local and they need help, so we’re the group that wants to help with that.”
In 2012, Jennifer and Joseph Perry bought their first alpaca while living in a Cary apartment. Soon after, they bought the property in Hillsborough, fenced it, built a barn and moved in two years later.
The Perrys both have full time jobs and take care of Perry Farm Alpacas on evenings and weekends.
“I get up early in the morning," said Jennifer Perry. "I feed the alpacas. I feed the chickens, make sure everyone is doing well, make sure they got hay, water. Go to work, come home, head back out to the barn, de-stress, relax from a very stressful day, hang out with my alpacas and scoop some poop — because you've got to scoop poop!”
But it’s not all about working in the barn. When the alpacas shed every year, the Perrys send some of the fiber to a mill in New England where it’s turned into yarn. Another portion goes to an alpaca fiber co-op that makes scarves, gloves, socks and other wearable items the Perrys buy at wholesale price to sell them at the farm, Jennifer Perry said.
They also make dryer balls, cat toys and artisanal soap at their home with the wool. The couple often sells the products at events in Orange County.
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