Monday, October 15, 2007

New England Coastal Classic

This is our fifth year attending the New England Coastal Classic and our second year as exhibitors. Showing is not my first love but the time spent there and the visibility is helpful. I find the environment a good one for meeting people and making a few connections. Each time I am impressed with the beautiful animals. Each time, I have made connections that have been helpful, especially with pursuing breedings.

The show results were once again reinforcing that I am on the right track. Evander's Evie took sixth place out of 10 in an all-white class; the most competitive classes at the show. The judge said her confirmation was perfect but her fleece just not as fine or as dense as those placed above her. I knew her fleece was not that fine from her histogram but her placement and "staying in the ring" meant that her confirmation and fleece character still carried some weight. Density is difficult to measure by hand--there are so many animals that are of medium density. But I tell you, I have felt DENSITY twice, once on Koko's Kokopelli, from Journey's End Alpacas, and again on Cherry Bomb from Foss Mountain Farm. When you touch those fleeces, they barely give, it is as though they are truly packed on the animal.

It is what we are striving for in all our animals, that and fineness and correct conformation, crimp style and on and on. It is a never ending quest.

Thunder took first in a very small class of Grey 2 and older males. I knew it would be his last time "out" so to speak and I wanted to get another opinion on him now that he had grown up. There were only three in the class which was dissapointing since I always want a truer measure of comparison but here are judge Amanda Van der Bosch's comments:

"Nicely balanced, Finest fleece in group. Good Handle. Balanced, complete package. Nice young male."

Amanda is such a treat to show in front of. She is gracious and gives extensive clear explanations.

In the championship class, she pulled up a Cas Cad Nac male that I was able to get a peak at his fleece--almost the crimp style of white and I assume a great deal of fineness as well. I understood why he was placed above Thunder.

On the way home, my 16-yr-old son called to give us a farm update: "New baby, about an hour old, placenta passed and a girl!" This is the last one for this year and we are delighted with her. Her fleece is a bright almost coppery color--surprising out of two white parents, Andromeda and the above mentioned Koko. I hope that she lives up to his amazing fineness and density. Time will tell.

A good end to a busy three days and our third alpaca-packed weekend in a row.

Next weekend-- a trip to Hartford to visit our daughter at Parent's Weekend.

Want to read past posts or see the animals? Click here: Maine's Bellemont Farm Alpacas.


Fryeburg Fair

Columbus Day Weekend takes us for our third year to Fryeburg Fair. We take two animals on Sat and Sun to the Llama and Alpaca barn for an educational exhibit. We can also show fleeces in the fiber building and can sell a little bit of product in the barn. I did sell just a little.

The highlight of Saturday is always the Grand Parade. A long-standing tradition at Fryeburg when all the animals and all the floats drive around the race track. We always stop in front of the grandstand packed with 1000's of people and they tell a little bit about the animals.

Even without the publicity of the parade, the barn is full from morning to night. Everyone wants to know "do they spit?" What do you do with them? Do people eat them? And my favorite this year from a little boy seeing them chew their cud "Do they blow bubbles with their bubble gum?"

I try to have something out that demonstrates how wonderful this fiber is-- a sweater, a bag of fleece or my favorite this year, an alpaca wall hanging that everyone could touch. I probably could have sold a 100 of them if I'd had them. It was a great hit.

It is long and tiring but we enjoy seeing our friends from Mt. Brook and meeting other farms who exhibit each year.

I recommend you try to get a stall at your local fair. Most fairs are glad to have something new to show people and there are many people who got their start in alpacas after seeing them at an agricultural fair.

Want to read past posts or see the animals? Click here: Maine's Bellemont Farm Alpacas.

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Monday, October 1, 2007

National Alpaca Open Farm Day, 2007

We participated in National Alpaca Open Farm Day. I wanted to test the "national advertising" and see how relevant it was to our market. We had approximately 50 people come in about 10-12 groups. Only two groups of people had seen it on TV. However, the local (and I mean local) paper had received a press release put out by AOBA and they contacted us to do an article. Most of the rest of the folks came because of the article. A few came by because they saw the signs.

I have read about other farms having over 200 people and I am always concerned about that happening but so far, our third Open Farm Day, it hasn't. I have been purposely low-key in my advertising each time to avoid being overwhelmed. This way, we get to spend time with each group that comes to the farm and answer their questions.

One woman stayed for a few hours with her kids and when no one else was there, I was able to let her in the pen and have her touch the animals, talk about each one and she fell in love with one in particular.

She has since visited at least one other farm and came to the Coastal Classic.

Saturday was a steady stream of people and Sunday was a bit slower but still folks came. The weather was windy but otherwise picture perfect and I thoroughly enjoyed the day. This was the first year I had yarn for sale. I had some of my own yarn for sale that I had had processed by NEWAIM Fiber Mill. Nancy Williams makes an absolutely splendid product, soft, soft soft.

I also had product from Fiber Pieces. This is a new collection process initiated by some folks in Yarmouth. They collect fiber up front and you pay $20/lb of fiber to have it process. Then when it is processed, you can get back fiber or cash. The minimum was 10 lbs of fiber I opted for 1/2 and 1/2 which gave me 22 skeins of yarn and cash. The yarns they make are blends and make beautiful heathered colors.

I sold both yarn and fleece and connected with folks in a fun way.

Things I want to do better next time:
  1. Signage. I am determined to work out something so that our sign posting is easy and highly visible. The signs we have made today do not stand out enough and even with directions people had a hard time finding us.
  2. A guest book to determine what people's real interest in- fleece, yarn, a Sunday drive, or owning alpacas.
  3. Someone spinning. I had someone spinning last year and it was a great conversation starter. I'd love to have more than one spinner here.
  4. Pricing: Pre-price the yarn to make it easier. It is hard because it in the rush of the moment it is easy to under or over price. I did both! I tracked down one customer whom I overcharged but she said she didn't mind because she loved the yarn so much and wanted the balance in the "farm yarn."
  5. More panels for penning animals in a simpler way. We just don't have enough panels and we end up moving them from places we need them in order to pen the animals on the lawn on Open Farm Day. Having a few on the lawn makes it easier for them to see them, as well as having the girls in the pasture. The combination works well. There is something so compelling about seeing the group in the green, green, grass. One of my favorite vistas.
Want to read past posts or see the animals? Click here: Maine's Bellemont Farm Alpacas.

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