Our Visit to Home Again Farm

On Saturday Gail and Daryl Gleason over at Home Again Farm in Theresa, N.Y., invited our intern Shani and me to stop in for "Herd Health Day", a monthly occurrence when the couple checks the weights of their alpacas, and gives each animal the once-over to check for any evidence of illness, disease, or mite.

Home Again Farm was established in 1831 by Gail's family as a dairy farm. She grew up on the property, and is now the sixth generation of her family to work this land. The couple graciously welcomes visitors to their farm, and have one of the coolest gift shops ever—lots of alpaca products, from fuzzy socks to warm sweaters to spools and spools of alpaca yarn.

The animals are totally sweet and appropriately pampered. Their living conditions are immaculate and cozy, they get plenty of space to run around and play, and they're extremely good-natured. Happy alpacas make happy happy yarn—a mass-produced, factory wool shearing operation this is not. Gail and Daryl love the alpacas—each is named, each is loved, each has its own goofy, lovable, irreverent personality.

Home Again Farm hosts a local 4H club, “Fiber of Life”, and has an annual open house. Gail and Daryl take the alpacas to schools and community events, as well as host such events on-site at the farm. They've also started growing grapes, which will be sold to one of the local wineries in the area.

Shani and I arrived on Saturday, were greeted by Gail and Daryl, and taken into one of the barns to learn all about the health of the herd. Here's Daryl with three male alpacas:

One by one, the alpacas are taken over to a scale so Gail and Daryl can record their weight. Then they're moved into a holding crate so Gail can clip their toenails:

 Mover over Cover Girl—here's an up-close shot of Tommy Girl's eyelashes:

...and Shani communing with one of the young boys:
Check out this mop:

In the wintertime, alpacas can grow up to six inches of fiber. The Home Again Farm alpacas are sheared once a year and their fiber is sent to the New England Alpaca Fiber Pool (NEAFP). This is a cooperative where Home Again Farm's alpaca fiber is sent in, and the farm can in turn purchase garments and items crafted from their own American alpacas. The farm's store also offers yarn made exclusively from Gail and Daryl's own alpacas. Every Skein comes with a picture of the alpaca from which the yarn was made. Home Again Farm also sells items handknit by women in Peru. Gail and Daryl are proud of this relationship because it promotes a greater standard of living for them and lovely items to offer at Home Again Farm.

We're proud of our relationship with Home Again Farm, and can't wait for this summer when the interns make regular trips out to visit with and help care for the alpacas, assist on the vineyards, and lend a hand anyway they can.

To learn more about our sustainability internship program, click here.

Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.