Alpacas were given a close shave, whether they liked it or not, at Kensington Prairie Farm in Langley recently.
The farm, a locally owned breeder and producer of award-winning alpaca fibre, invited the public to attend its annual Shearing Days April 6 and 7.
An all-female shearing team, accompanied by some farm staff, sheared 100 animals over three days on the farm’s newly designed shearing table, explained Kensington Prairie Farm manager, and owner’s granddaughter, Deprice Martens.
She and her farm staff of six were be on hand to help accomplish this three-day feat.
After shearing, staff ‘skirted’ each fleece to remove the coarse parts, sort by colour and general grade, noted farm owner Catherine Simpson, a certified as a qualified fibre sorter.
Simpson sorted alongside Cathy Merkley, an expert fibre sorter.
The reason behind making this event accessible to the public is showing visitors what their clothing is made of, and where it comes from.
This premise encouraged Simpson to build a Kensington Prairie Farm store on the property. The store stocks her own fibre that has been made into knitting yarn, socks, beanie hats and home décor items such as pillows, baby blankets and throws.
“It’s a great opportunity for families to bring their kids to see where alpaca fibre comes from, and how it begins its journey to become a baby blanket or sweater,” Simpson said.
The alpacas are shorn by hand — a process that does not hurt the animals.
“It’s fun to see how energetic the alpacas are after ‘losing’ an average of 5-10 pounds of fleece,” Simpson said.
About Kensington Prairie Farm
Kensington Prairie Farm is a family run diversified farming operation, which includes breeding, raising and showing Huacaya alpacas, breeding and raising Registered Polled Hereford cattle and producing artisanal honey and organic jams. Kensington Prairie Farm markets and sells a variety of high-quality Canadian-made and imported alpaca products from their on-farm boutique and online store.
Kensington Prairie Farm is a member of the Canadian Llama and Alpaca Association, Alpaca Canada, Fraser Valley Llama & Alpaca Association, BC Llama & Alpaca Association and Alpaca Registry Inc. For more information, visit: www.kensingtonprairie.ca.
Simpson believes the farm is the largest producer of alpaca meat in Western Canada.
“As the alpaca ages, the fleece becomes coarser, and it reaches the point where it’s unusable for anything, and that’s the time when we move our animals to the meat program,” Simpson said.
Simpson set off to produce meat after numerous visits to Peru, where she ate alot of alpaca.
“It mades ense to me,” she said. “Initially I was mortified by the whole thought of doing it, and the first one wasn’t easy. It isn’t particularly easy now, but it’s not easy to take my cows, either.”
About Catherine Simpson
Simpson established Kensington Prairie Farm in 2,000 on five acres of land in Surrey, in an area historically known as Kensington Prairie County. Home to 12 alpacas, the farm quickly grew to 30-plus animals. In 2006, Kensington Prairie Farm relocated to Langley, and expanded its operations from five to 45 acres and now has about 65 alpacas.
Simpson is board member of the Fraser Valley Farm Direct Marketing Association, Fraser Valley Llama and Alpaca Club, West Coast Hereford Club and participates in the Shop Historic Otter 248th Trail marketing group.
About Quechua Benefit
Quechua Benefit, a charity founded in 1996 is dedicated to helping the Quechua people in the highlands of Peru. This region is where the vast majority of alpaca fibre in the world is produced. Quechua Benefit and its volunteers deliver medical, dental and optical care; distribute warm clothing; provide shelter, food, and sociological services with an emphasis on children. More information can be found at: www.quechuabenefit.org