No Beef: Northfield Family Farms Alpacas
This local farm boasts alpacas, yaks and miniature donkeys.
Northfield is known for its cows.
And eight years ago, the Fossums fit in perfectly with that image when the family farm specialized in cattle.
But then two alpacas were added to the farm, which is located in Greenvale Township. Now, there's not any beef in sight on the Fossum Family Farm Alpacas, which is now home to 75 alpacas.
The Fossums sell, board, process fiber and breed the animals.
“I fell in love with them,” said Vicki Fossum, who owns the business with her husband Kevin. “They are just such beautiful animals and they have such nice temperaments. ... My dream had always been that if I was going to have alpacas I was going to do everything with them from start to finish with the animals."
Alpacas are raised for their fiber. The Fossum family shears their animals once a year.
“The fiber is hypo-allergenic because it doesn’t contain lanolin,” said Fossum. “Alpaca is generally a softer fiber than sheep wool.”
Alpacas come in 22 colors and are native to South America. They are closely related to camels and llamas.
The Fossums raise both major breeds: Huacaya and Suri.
“Their fiber is more a like sheep,” said Fossum of the Huacaya breed. “Suri alpacas fiber grows down from their body like human hair.”
Suris produce fine fiber used for items like suits and lacy scarfs. Huacaya fiber is more bulky and used for sweaters, mittens and hats.
And the farm is growing.
Two Tibetan Royal yaks have recently been added to their farm with the hopes of raising a herd.
“They have long fiber that you comb out and you can spin just like an alpaca,” said Fossum.
The farm is also home to a smattering of friendly barn cats and a few miniature donkeys.
The family has repurposed the original garage on the farm and turned it into The Alpaca Farm Store, which is open on the weekends. The store sells many items made from alpaca fiber like hats, mittens, scarves, slippers and rugs. They also sell bird silos filled with fiber for birds to build nests with and felted soap.
“We have a beautiful location here,” said Fossum. “We love Northfield. There are a lot of people here very interested in locally grown products."
ON THE WEB
PHYSICAL FACTS OF THE HUACAYA ALPACA*
- Life span: 18-20 years
- Average height: 3 feet at shoulder; 4.5 feet at head
- Average weight: 150-185 lbs for adult; 16-20 lbs or baby
- Average gestation: 11 months and one week