HARVARD -- Matthew and Amy Varrell had a dream -- and it was full of alpacas.
On Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., the couple will officially open the doors of the Harvard Alpaca Ranch, 58 Old Mill Road, in a grand opening timed for National Alpaca Farm Days.
The Varrells acquired their starter herd of eight alpacas this past April and have been working through the summer to prepare for opening to the public. The grand opening will focus on alpacas and the fiber industry and will also feature a variety of other special events.
Harvard Alpaca Ranch's current herd includes four females (Lia, Sumi, Natalie, and Ava) and four males (Jammer, Ivan, Erik, and Charlie). The Varrells chose the alpacas based on factors including quality of fiber and conformance, health and breeding history, and personality. The animals come from two different farms in Maine: Northern Solstice Alpaca Farm in Unity and Spudland Alpaca Farm in Blaine.
The Varrells will offer free farm tours where visitors will learn about what alpacas are, from where they originate, their light footprint on the land, and why their fiber is so highly valued across the world. Beyond an opportunity to touch and interact with the herd, visitors can experience the warmth and softness of alpaca products such as socks, hats, gloves and mittens, and yarn and roving. There will be opportunities for kids and adults to try their hand at fiber arts such as felting with alpaca fiber.
Harvard Alpaca Ranch also partnered with several other local businesses. Still River Winery and Carlson Orchards of Harvard and Ken & Gina's Amazing Organic Ice Cream of Stow will be present at the opening, offering samples of their locally produced goods.
"Small farms and producers of locally grown products need to stick together and help promote each other," Matthew Varrell said in a press release. "We're thrilled to partner with these local companies and invite them to share our event."
The Varrells' vision for Harvard Alpaca Ranch is to establish an agritourism-centered farm focused on educating the public on the value of alpacas and the products made from their fiber. They plan to raise high quality alpacas that will be available for sale, offer stud services, and agisting. As they expand over time, they anticipate welcoming school groups, scouts, and other organizations looking for a unique and educational experience.
Animal-assisted therapy using the gentle alpacas is planned as a future opportunity for the ranch. Additionally, the farm has a small Alpaca Shop where alpaca products are for sale. Sunflowers and pumpkins are also grown on the property for sale.