The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Currents

September 27, 2007

A good climate for alpacas

Area farms that raise these docile, friendly creatures hold open house this weekend

George and Mary Hodson are living their dream life, thanks to a Dark Shaddow that crossed their path.

The Hodsons own Grand River Alpaca Farm, 982 Mechanicsville Road, Rock Creek. The farm provides their living. George, who worked in manufacturing, left the corporate world and all its stress and politics five years ago; Mary, formerly a radiation therapist, walked away from her medical career last year.

“It was quite a career change for both of us,” says George, who is in his early 40s. “We made some good decisions, overcame the bad ones and had some luck come our way, and the business has really taken off.”

The Hodsons, who have a herd of 75 alpacas, started with just three animals and a big dream 10 years ago. They first became interested in them as a result of a newspaper article. In 1997, as they were preparing to move into their new home, they attended Fiberfest at Lake Farmpark and touched their first alpacas. They spoke with breeders, joined the Alpaca Owners and Breeders association, visited farms, attended seminars and, in March 1998, purchased their first three Huacaya alpacas – a black bred female and two young males.

There are 22 recognized natural colors of alpaca, but George and Mary decided to focus on just black and gray. That desire led them to an unproven, 14-month-old male at a farm in New York. Two other breeders were interested in the animal, as well, but the Hodsons braved a snowstorm and got first chance at buying it.

“I saw him and I knew we had something special,” George says.

The animal, Dark Shaddow, represented a new blood line and a costly investment. George says it was a great investment, however. Dark Shaddow was named 2006 Reserve Herdshire of the Year; his offspring have earned 40 champion awards.

George says the animal was just the break they needed to transform their part-time farm into a full-time operation.

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