The Franklin Alpacas You Have to Meet
Tucked away just miles from downtown Franklin is Mistletoe Farm, a charming alpaca farm that produces its own yarn and handmade products. The story of Mistletoe Farm and it's owners' journey to becoming alpaca farmers is fun enough in its own right but seeing them care for their herd up close and realizing the incredible products made there are done so in the traditional methods, gives a whole other level of appreciation.
When visitors stop by the farm to meet (and feed) the friendly alpacas, they'll also find a one-of-a-kind farm store showcasing numerous products made in the traditional methods with alpaca wool. For those that feel inspired, you also have the ability to learn traditional crafts such as weaving, spinning, and felting on site. Mistletoe Farm is a special place that you'll want to add to your Franklin itinerary!
We caught up with Mistletoe Farm owner Leanne Butchko to learn more about how Mistletoe got started, the importance of eco-friendly goods, and her advice to other aspiring alpaca farm owners.
What's the story behind Mistletoe Farm?
"The story behind Mistletoe Farm Alpacas began over 15 years ago. Some friends of ours owned land and were interested in researching and farming the curious critters. Through this process, we fell in love with these cute fuzzy faced animals with quirky personalities so we bought the farm! I actually won our first alpaca from a large Oregon farm by writing an essay on why I wanted to win an alpaca. Since alpacas are herd animals and need companions to be healthy and happy, we purchased a female alpaca and her cria (or baby) from a local farm. Today our herds typically have about 20-25 alpacas."
What drew you to alpacas specifically?
"For us, alpacas were the ideal farm animal because they are gentle and small--an adult alpaca only weighs about 150 pounds. They are easy on pastures and fencing, don't eat much, and require only a three-sided shelter with electricity for fans. Alpacas use a communal dung pile, much like a cat, so pastures are easy to clean up and can compost immediately. The best part is they produce a luxury fiber that is warmer and lighter than wool. Alpaca fiber is water-resistant and flame retardant. There is no lanolin like sheep's wool so it requires no chemicals to scour it. Alpaca fiber is very soft, with many benefits such as helping maintain body temperature while still being breathable and warm. Unlike wool, alpaca fiber has a smooth, silk-like texture."
What are your favorite things about owning a farm?
"We enjoy the farm as it keeps us active. We also love sharing it with others and do farm tours (weather permitting) for all ages from children to seniors. Another way we share our love of alpacas is our farm store which carries lots of handmade alpaca products, as well as the yarn from our animals. The fiber alpacas produce is versatile and can be spun, woven or felted into soft warm garments such as hats, gloves, scarves, and socks. We use the "seconds" to make felted shoe inserts, dryer balls, and just about anything you can come up with!"
In what ways have you experienced traditional crafts gaining interest in recent years?
"Over the past 15 years, it's been rewarding to learn how to create natural products. I think more people are starting to appreciate how something is made and where it comes from, whether it's food or garments. Our landfills are overflowing with plastic and acrylic disposable goods that take forever to biodegrade. People are recognizing the benefits of all-natural, self-sustaining fibers that animals like alpacas create. Our farm is set up to offer classes to teach people how to weave, spin, knit, felt and naturally dye using our own organic dye garden."
What advice would you give to others who are interested in starting their own farm?
"There is nothing easy about farming life, whether that is food, hay, or fiber animals. It requires hard work and dedication--rain or shine, hot or cold. The animals must be cared for, fed, and watered. There are no days off so you must be passionate about it and enjoy the journey and lifestyle. You get out of it what you put into it."
Are you feeling inspired to visit Mistletoe Farm? Visit their website here to plan your next visit, take a class, and shop their online store!