Alpacas, master gardeners and vintage cars mix together during simultaneous Ag Center events

April 14, 2012|By DAN DEARTH |
  • Skylar Wilson, 5, of Boonsboro learns to makes a German scarecrow like ones made in the 1800's using feathers and sweet potatoes, Saturday during the Rural Heritage Museum spring open house at the Washington County Agricultural Education Center in Hagerstown.
By Colleen McGrath/Staff Photographer

Alpacas, master gardeners and vintage cars mixed well together during two separate but simultaneous events Saturday at the Washington County Agricultural Education Center south of Hagerstown.

Farmers from six local alpaca farms brought their camel-like livestock to a barn on the east end of the center to educate the public about the unique animals.

“A lot of people just don’t know a lot about them,” said Jeff Hull, an alpaca breeder from Cherry Run Farm in Mercersburg, Pa. “This is one of the reasons we had this event.”

A little south of the alpaca barn, The Washington County Rural Heritage Museum held its 12th Annual Spring Open House. That event featured classic cars, trucks, tractors — and a demonstration of a 19th century German four-square garden.

Master Gardener Karen Greeley said the garden, which was divided into four smaller square gardens that were raised off the ground to allow better drainage, has been around since 2005.

Volunteers were on-hand Saturday to plant spring vegetables, such as potatoes, cabbage, carrots and turnips. They’ll return after Mother’s Day to plant tomatoes and hot peppers, which are sown during the warmer months, she said.

Greeley described how 19th century German families separated jobs while working in their gardens.

“The men shoveled manure, and the women and kids did the gardening,” she said.

The food that the garden produces is shared in August by the gardeners, she said. Local food banks get the produce that is left over.

She said a tour of the garden will be given on June 9 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Back at the alpaca show, farmers sold hand-knitted hats, gloves, socks, sweaters and other items that were made with alpaca fleece.

Bobbi Norvell of December Moon Alpacas, an alpaca farm east of Hagerstown, said she has been raising the animals for eight years.

“I fell in love with them,” she said. “My whole day is alpacas. I wouldn’t do anything else.”

Norvell said alpaca farming is very profitable, in part because of tax breaks and incentives. But the big value comes from the fleece, which is hypoallergenic and softer than angora or mink.

“It’s softer than wool and doesn’t itch,” she said. “You can wear it right up to your skin, and it keeps you warm.”

Dozens of people attended the free event Saturday.

Hagerstown resident Kim Graves said she came with her three young children and neighbor Ellen Savoy.

Graves said she believed the event offered a nice change of pace that allowed her to expose her children to the exotic animal, which is indigenous to Chile and Peru.

She said her 8-year-old daughter, Pheona, wanted to take one home.

“I love them,” Pheona said. “They’re so soft and fuzzy.”

If you go:

What: Alpaca Farm Days 2012.
When: Today, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Where: Washington County Agricultural Education Center.

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