Local alpaca farm and business to host National Alpaca Days

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COLUMBIA – The National Alpaca Farm Days are coming to Columbia on Saturday to help local alpaca farmers showcase their animals and products.

The event comes to Columbia annually, and are hosted by local alpaca farmer Mary Licklider.

“Alpaca Farm Days gives people a chance to come out and see a working farm,” said Carol Brown, a business partner of Licklider. “The animals are beautiful, the setting is beautiful.”

There are more than 20 alpacas living in Columbia, many of which are owned by Licklider and one of her partners at Heartfelt Alpaca Creations, a small company run by Licklider, Brown and two other women in mid-Missouri.

They all work together to create products from the animals’ fiber.

In order to do this, they shear alpacas of their fleece, send that fleece to a mill to be made into batting, or sheets of fiber, and then Heartfelt uses that batting to make its products.

The company was created when Licklider found out about a FeltLoom online.

A FeltLoom takes animal fleece or fiber and tangles it until it is dense enough to create something.

Partners Licklider, Brown and Diane Peckham traveled to Kentucky to take a look at the machine in 2010.

After seeing the FeltLoom, the three women and their fourth partner, Linda Coats, pooled their resources to purchase one. Since then, the four women have been growing their business nationwide.

Heartfelt Alpaca Creations is a year-round operation, even though the alpacas are only sheared once a year.

After shearing the animals, the women sort the fiber before it can be sent to the mill.

“One of the major things I do with the fleece is I sort it,” Peckham said. “We get 500 pounds of fleece, that’s a pretty big pile, and somebody has to go through all of it, take out the trash and the dirt and the hay.”

Each alpaca produces about five to ten pounds of fleece, depending on how big it is. The bigger and denser males produce ten, while pregnant females may only produce five.

Heartfelt Alpaca Creations has started taking orders from other farmers.

“Right around now, people are putting in orders for the farm store,” Brown said. “We sell a lot of insoles to other farmers who have stores like this. They want to have alpaca products, and we make them here in the United States. They really like that.”

Other alpaca farmers ship their fiber to a mill turn it into batting, and then they have that mill deliver the batting to Heartfelt. Then the women here in Columbia turn that batting into insoles and ship them back to the original farmer.

Insoles are Heartfelt’s most popular product, but the women also make things like rugs, fingerless gloves, yarn and dog beds.

Many of these products will be available to purchase at the Alpaca Farm Days.

Licklider will host two events at her farm on W. Gillespie Bridge Road from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., both Saturday and Sunday.

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