Zanesville alpaca farm launching first tour season | Zanesville Times Recorder | zanesvilletimesrecorder.com
ZANESVILLE -- Becky Camma never imagined her "retirement" would consist of 38 Suri alpacas and four llamas.
But that's just what she got.
Camma and her husband, Albert, own The Alpacas of Spring Acres, a 180-acre alpaca farm on Big-B Road in Zanesville. The Cammas started the farm in 2007 when they bought seven alpacas -- "the original seven," they call them -- at an auction.
In April, the farm will open up to tours for the first time. The details aren't quite worked out, but the plan is to host tours from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every Friday, Saturday and Sunday, said Jamie Morgan, Camma's daughter, who helps run the farm with her husband, Shane.
The tours will include a short educational talk about alpaca care and life on the farm. Guests also can visit with the animals and check out the gift shop, which features rugs, sweaters and scarves made of alpaca fleece.
The family is trying out the tours at least for one season, just to see how it goes, Morgan said.
"We're basically just saying, 'Hi, we're here; we're ready now,'" she said. "It's an educational process. That's all we're out here for."
Originally from Newark, Camma's retirement didn't start with alpacas. Five years ago, when she was 48, she and Albert bought a retirement house in Hilton Head, S.C.
But Albert, a neurosurgeon, was spending a lot of time traveling back to Zanesville to help at the hospital, Camma said, and she wanted to start a farm to give her grown children the chance for a different lifestyle "than nine to five, punching the clock."
They looked for land in South Carolina for a while, but Albert already owned the Zanesville land, so in 2008, they moved back to Ohio, Camma said.
Camma loves using the Suri fleece, rich in fiber, to make scarves and rugs. One of her goals is to help create a significant source of Suri fiber in the U.S. In order to compete with Peru, which is where most alpaca fiber comes from, there would have to be a flock of about one million Suri alpacas in the U.S., she said.
Life on the farm is great, but caring for the animals is more work than she initially thought, Camma said. The animals require a lot of medical attention, and there's also plenty of work in determining which animals to breed and when.
"It's not just put the food and water out and hope for the best," she said.
Camma has three grown children and Albert has two, but Morgan and her husband are the only ones who decided to work full-time on the farm.
Before, Morgan was working in collections for a bank, she said, while Shane was a computer consultant. Morgan also recently earned a business degree from Muskingum University, but after having her own daughter, Emma, three months ago, she's not sure what will come of that, she said.
So for now, Morgan and Shane handle most of the day-to-day work on the farm, including the feeding, monthly shots, breeding and ultrasounds for pregnant alpacas.
They also show alpacas in competitions, recently earning four first-place ribbons and two second-places at a Columbus show, Morgan said.
Neither Morgan nor Camma has a favorite alpaca -- Morgan jokes she has plenty of non-favorites -- but strolling past the different pastures, they both know each by name.
There's Brianna and Bridgette, a mother-daughter pair who are each pregnant. At night, Brianna and Bridgette find each other to sleep side-by-side, Morgan said.
Then there's Goose. Goose's real-name is Electra, but she earned her nickname for the loud, honking noise she makes.
There's also Billie Jean; Lulu, Lilu and Lily; Jemma and Jetta; Eve and Everest; and Midory, who used to be Morgan's favorite until Midory became pregnant and turned out to be a neglectful mother.
Other breeders warn not to get attached to the animals, but Morgan tends to ignore that advice, she said.
"The first time we ever lost an animal, I think I cried for three days," she said.