HARVARD -- Matthew and Amy Varrell started with just eight alpacas a year ago.
After nature took its course and a few more acquisitions, their herd is now up to 16.
The Varrells are celebrating the first anniversary of the opening of the Harvard Alpaca Ranch this weekend, opening their doors Saturday and Sunday for National Alpaca Farm Days.
The celebration of National Alpaca Farm Days will focus on alpacas and the fiber industry but will also feature a variety of other special events to enhance the experience for all visitors, young and old.
National Alpaca Farm Days is an event that celebrates the unique alpaca at farms and ranches across the country. 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 meet the herd, visitors can experience the warmth and softness of alpaca products such as socks, hats, gloves and mittens, yarn, and various other fiber products. There will be opportunities for kids and adults to try their hand at fiber arts such as wet felting with alpaca fiber. Other crafts and fun events will also be offered throughout the weekend.
Harvard Alpaca Ranch's current herd includes nine adult females (Lia, Sumi, Natalie, Ava, Duchess, Sydney, Leanne, Isabella, and Tess), five adult males (Jammer, Ivan, Erik, Charlie, and Black Rock), and two cria (baby alpacas).
The Varrells expanded their herd further by acquiring three alpacas from a farm in Virginia in July. These animals introduce grey color genetics to the herd.
To enhance the event, Harvard Alpaca Ranch partnered with several other local businesses. Ken & Gina's Amazing Organic Ice Cream of Stow will be returning to the ranch, offering their locally made ice cream. Additionally, Hennassy Henna Shop will be in attendance, offering discounted henna tattoos on Saturday. "Small businesses, including farms and producers of local products and services need to share opportunities to meet the public help promote each other," Matthew Varnell said. "We're thrilled to partner with these local companies and invite them to share our event."
In the past year, the Varrells' vision for Harvard Alpaca Ranch has begun to take form. Each weekend, the ranch welcomes visitors, young and old, from all over eastern Massachusetts and beyond, sharing their knowledge on alpaca husbandry and why their fiber is so valuable. The Varrells now also offer stud services, and agisting of alpacas.
Animal-assisted therapy using the gentle alpacas continues to be a future opportunity for the ranch. The Alpaca Shop at Harvard Alpaca Ranch has grown in the past year and now offers a wide variety of luxurious alpaca products for sale, many from a fiber co-op, to which the ranch belongs.
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