RAISING ALPACAS AND FERGUSON TRACTORS Aaron Shaw and his wife, Aubry, started with a small acreage that needed a lot of work, an old Ferguson T0-30 and some cast-off equipment. With nothing but a strip of land, they built a home and began to plan and lay the foundation of what would become their small farm. Aubry, who has a BA in Natural Science and MA from Ohio State University in Public Health. She is currently the Extension Educator for 4-H Youth Development in Fairfield County, Ohio. Her work in the Fairfield County Extension Office and her role working with 4-H kids, laid the groundwork for pairing interested kids–who lacked the means–with Alpacas. This past year was especially difficult, as the virus closed down our county fair. So, she and Aaron held workshops on their small farm, usually on a one-on-one basis. Kids who couldn’t afford to buy an Alpaca were loaned an animal by the Shaw’s. A 4-H members without adequate space, could board the animal with the Shaw’s herd. Aaron works for the Ohio State Auditor’s office. He is mainly involved with performance audits, which examine the efficiency and effectiveness of government programs making sure that the money is being spent correctly, goals are being met and helping to make them more efficient. After sitting at a desk all day, he looks forward to spending time on the seat of his Ferguson T0-30 tractor. THE ALPACA’S ARRIVE We moved the five alpacas onto the property in September of that year. Other alpacas moved in too. Apparently, I didn’t hide the checkbook from my wife well enough. When it was all said and done, we found ourselves staring at about twenty-four animals. We thought to ourselves, now what? The answer to that question wasn’t so easy. You see, this was 2018 and the previous couple of decades for the alpaca industry in the United States had been–how shall I say–very eventful. Originally from primarily Peru, Chile, and Bolivia, alpacas were imported into the United States during a ten year period starting in 1984. While the original purpose was to provide additional markets for South American Farmers, Americans quickly purchased the animals for their fiber. FERGUSON TRACTOR TO THE RESCUE That Ferguson TO-30 sitting in our little barn now had a purpose. We prepared, drilled, fertilized and sprayed our fields, all with the Ferguson. Once summer came, the TO-30 was too small to run our New Holland square baler but we used the Ferguson to rake, pull wagons out of the field and run the hay elevator. It was a huge learning curve, but our little hay operation was a success. The next year, we took on sixteen acres of rented ground, making our total footprint about thirty-two acres. The alpacas now have an abundance of hay and we produce enough extra hay to serve several other farms in the area as well. ALPACA’S BECOME PART OF 4-H Although from a profit standpoint, gloves, hats, and yarn are our final product, the largest surprise with our little farm, hands down, has been the local 4-H program. A couple of years ago, the county fair didn’t have a single alpaca participant. We decided to partner with a 4-H club out of Lithopolis, Ohio. I became a formal advisor and we began offering our Alpacas to club members for use as their 4-H projects. The aim was to make them available to kids who couldn’t afford the full cost of ownership and/or the associated land and infrastructure. The first year, we provided six spots and all six were filled immediately. The second year we offered twelve and those were also quickly filled. As a result, we had to establish a waiting list. All year, the kids work with their alpaca. Duties include halter training, feeding, poop raking, medicating, etc. We offer three “workshops” per week, and usually each kid attends at least one of them. At the end of the year, the kids get their alpacas ready for the Fairfield County Fair, the second week of October. We transport the animals and the kids then compete various classes, including showmanship and public relations.