BY AARON PIPER
For The Republic
Five baby alpaca, or cria, hopped around Ed and Juvonda Jones’ farm, Hoosier Heartland Alpacas, on Saturday afternoon oblivious to the lengths that visitors had come to visit them on National Alpaca Farm Days.
“We originally started because I wanted to learn how to spin alpaca fiber,” Juvonda said. “I could have done that with two, but we got a few more.”
That was back in the summer of 2010 when the Joneses also were looking for another source of income after they retired. Juvonda also wanted to make coats and other items from the alpaca fiber.
In September 2011, the Joneses had their first open house to introduce their herd of 15 alpacas to the public.
Today, they have 20 Suri and one Huacaya breed of alpaca at their farm and gift shop at 2500 N. County Road 1000W near Seymour.
Juvonda said she always has viewed alpacas as unusual animals.
In her opinion, they are easier to handle than cows or horses. They don’t kick as hard due to the soft padding, instead of hooves, that cover their feet.
She also said alpacas are easier on pastures because they don’t pull the grass up like some animals.
“They do spit sometimes,” said Juvonda as a warning. “However, usually, it’s at each other over food.”
On Saturday and Sunday, the Joneses opened the farm to the public and prepared spinning demonstrations as a part of the National Alpaca Farm Days celebration.
“We have people from all over, from Chicago to Indianapolis, come and visit,” Juvonda said.
Two of the visitors were from Mount Wolf, Pennsylvania.
Deb Weaver and Mike Cousler came to Indiana to see the Indianapolis Colts and San Diego Chargers football game Sunday in Indianapolis. Weaver said she has several alpacas back home and was missing hers.
Because she knew it was National Alpaca Farm Days, the two went looking for an alpaca farm.
“I have 25 girls and 13 boys. I miss my kids,” she said of her alpacas.
The average alpaca weighs in at about 160 pounds, Juvonda said.
Weaver said they are intelligent creatures with great eyesight.
“They can spot predators a good distance away and give off an alarm call,” she said.
Both women agreed that domestic dogs are probably the alpaca’s largest predator.
Kurt and Emily Nunemaker of Columbus also came to visit the farm and explore the gift shop Saturday.
The couple said they saw an article in the newspaper about the activities available at the farm for National Alpaca Farm Days and decided to check out the event.
“I’m trying to convince him they’re dogs,” Emily said. “I think they’re cute.”
The weekend event offered demonstrations on weaving wool and alpaca fiber.
Alpaca fiber is hypoallergenic, flame retardant and as warm as wool but less itchy, Juvonda said.
She said she has begun making the fiber into various clothing items and felting it to make into other items for sale at the farm shop.
Normally, the store hours are noon to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and by appointment Saturday and Sunday.
Hoosier Heartland Alpacas also has a “spin-in” every second Saturday of the month and offers Fall Farm Days on the last weekend in September. The Saturday following Thanksgiving, the farm holds a Christmas open house.
“They’re fun outings for the family,” Juvonda said. “Many people don’t even know what an alpaca is.”
National Alpaca Farm Days usually brings about 400 people each year to the Joneses’ farm.
“It’s just relaxing to sit and watch them play,” Ed said of the alpacas, who communicate with each other with a soft humming sound that can be soothing to listen to.
Alpacas were domesticated thousands of years ago and are native to the Andes of southern Peru, northern Bolivia, northern Chile and Ecuador.
They were brought to the United States in 1984.
The Alpaca Owners Association has more than 10,000 members, and its registry contains 230,000 alpacas.
For information about Hoosier Heartland Alpacas, visit hoosierheartlandalpacas.com.