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Grab the kids and alpaca lunch

Unusual animals on display at open house

Unusual animals on display at open house

April 01, 2007|By TAMELA BAKER

WASHINGTON COUNTY-They're compact, fuzzy and docile.

And there are more of them in Washington County than you might think.

Ten local alpaca breeders are hosting the Alpaca Farm Days Open House this weekend at Annapaca Farm at 10702 Mapleville Road east of Hagerstown. And if you've never seen an alpaca, now is your chance.

Part of the camel family and related to the llama, alpacas are native to the Andes Mountains; most are from Peru. But these little animals seem right at home at Annapaca Farm, owned by Bert and Ann Kramer.

The Kramers have 100 acres, where they raise alpacas and some crops, Ann Kramer said. Fleece from the alpacas is spun into yarn, and the Kramers have a shop on site where they sell imported coats, sweaters, socks and other products, all produced with alpaca fleece.

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Fleece from the Kramers' animals has been used to make socks, headbands and yarn, Ann Kramer said.

This weekend's event is aimed at fostering interest in alpaca farming. Free seminars on topics from breeding to tax advantages of alpaca breeding are available, as well as some animals for sale. Today's seminars are scheduled to include breeding - from a veterinarian - and spinning alpaca fleece.

Ann Kramer's interest in alpacas began when the couple lived in Montgomery County, Md., she said. Their eight-acre property contained a lot of grass, "and I was tired of mowing."

She wanted some animals to graze, and when her son sent them a photo of some alpacas, "I fell in love."

The growth of their herd prodded the Kramers to look for more room to spread out. They moved to Washington County in 2000 when they "fell in love with this beautiful farm," she said.

The Kramers now are part of a small network of breeders - some of whom the Kramers helped inspire to get started - who share information and spread the word about the joys of alpaca breeding.

Donna Hull, along with her son and daughter-in-law, Jeff and Beth, were converts.

"We saw them here," she said. "We started about a year ago. We have five alpacas, and we're expecting another one this summer."

This year's event is no different - Smithsburg resident Anthony Barbarino already had an interest in raising alpacas, and brought his children, 7-year-old Hannah and 3-year-old twins Holden and Garrett, to Annapaca Farm on Saturday so they could see the real thing. Barbarino said he definitely wants to breed the animals, but is waiting until he has a little more room for them to graze.

In the meantime, Hannah enjoyed petting the animals being shown, and said if she had one, she would "maybe just play with it."

Holden liked the high-pitched noises the alpacas make.

To get started, "you can do it on about five acres," said Nancy Lake, who breeds alpacas at her White Hall Road home. She said the breeders decided to put together the Alpaca Farm Days event because "a lot of the public have never seen them."

And as grazing animals go, alpacas are fairly low maintenance.

"They're light on the land; they have no hoofs," Ann Kramer said. "They don't eat very much."

Alpaca Farm Days continues today from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.




If you go



What: Alpaca Farm Days

When: Today, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Where: Annapaca Farm/The Alpaca Shop, 10702 Mapleville Road, east of Hagerstown

For information, call 301-824-2840 or go to www.annapaca.com.

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