on the Caldwell's and A.L. Paca's Farms
When the word "alpaca" was first heard in our home, Denise was
working as the manager of a doctor's office (she has a bachelors degree in
business from Bowling Green) and Doug was a manager for British Petroleum
(he has a bachelors degree in mechanical engineering from the University
of Wisconsin at Madison). The year was 1993 and Doug had just
returned home from another long business trip. While away, Doug came across a positive
and interesting review of the alpaca business in the newspaper, USA Today.
Although the prospect of earning a few extra dollars and even possibly retiring
early by raising these unusual animals sounded intriguing to Doug, when he
returned home from the business trip he found that Denise was not overly
attracted to the idea. So, little happened, until...
Around a year later, while on vacation, both of us came across our first
alpaca farm and we had our chance to see an alpaca.
This time they captured both of our hearts and minds and we soon went to work
to learn, evaluate, and plan for the possibility they might one day become
part of our lives.
Neither of us had any background with livestock, let alone farming.
We were typical "city types". However, the idea of moving to
the country, working for ourselves, working with each other, and making a
living raising these adorable animals was a draw that simply could not be
We consulted with a
business planner, a banker, and a investment planner/CPA who all thought
we were nuts to invest any money into something such as farming. Our
CPA told us farming is an excellent place to make money as tax treatments
are much more favorable for farms than for other businesses, but she went
on to say, few people make money in farming.
This group of
professionals decided to help us with this "different path" idea and
together we put together what we all thought was a very conservative
business plan. The plan, at least on paper, looked to be a rational
thing to pursue. There was a possibility we might even show a profit
in less than 5 years!
And so, our
alpaca venture began in November of 1994 with the purchase of our first 3
suggested we try to obtain as quick of a return as possible from the
business and so she suggested we pick out what she called "packed
alpacas". This was her personal term for alpacas which were extra
pregnant and due to have their babies soon.
At the time of our
alpaca purchase we lived in a home having stones beds rather than grass.
There was, in fact, one grass section which took all of a few minutes to mow.
As alpacas were not going to find a good home there, we
needed to board our alpacas at a nearby farm.
On a Sunday morning, one of our females gave
birth to a female offspring. Later in the day, as we were going over
to see the cria, a couple we were friends with asked to tag along.
They, like us, were enamored with the new baby and not even three weeks later they
offered to buy her! Wow, our first sale and the little girl was not
even 30 days of age! This is where things started to really spin.
With a check for $15k sitting (more like glowing) on the kitchen table,
the idea came around to spend it on more alpacas rather than to pay down
the 2nd mortgage (as Doug promised Denise would happen with the sale of
any offspring). The second
mortgage had helped give us the money to buy our starter alpacas. Anyway,
Doug proposed it was about time to sell the city home and buy a country
one with some acreage.
Six months later, in
1995, we moved a few miles east to our first home in the country which had a few
acres on which we could begin raising our alpacas. The area was
Hinckley, OH, an attractive park-like area south of Cleveland, OH.
Once we moved to the
farm, our business really began to take off. We soon found ourselves growing at a rate which was nearly
3x faster then projected in our business plan. The fulfillment from
our alpaca business quickly became greater than what we were obtaining
from either of our careers and so it was time for us both to resign and
have a full time go of this. The year was 1995.
When we announced our
retirements, our friends and family really thought our manure wagon had no
spreader. Imagine, giving up expensive educations and good careers,
just what were we thinking!
At Doug's retirement
party some of his coworkers patted him on the back and said to him "Alot
of Luck". This sounded like it would make a good business name and
so began A.L. Paca's.
Within the next three
years we grew the business to the point where we had outgrown the Hinckley
farm with its limited acreage. To continue to expand the business we
really needed a larger property. It was time to go shopping for a
new home once again.
Although Doug was
looking to expand in the nearby area, Denise had been tracking interest in
alpacas by state over the last three years. She reported that NY had
consistently been at or near the top of the list for the level of interest in alpacas.
She also knew that NY had very few alpacas, making the supply / demand curve
very opportunistic for the state and the northeast region. Property in NY was also much more
reasonable than in OH so we could obtain more acreage and more home for
the same money. We had vacationed in upstate NY before and were
greatly impressed by the region. So, we started looking to see what
was available in the state. With great fortune, we soon found
exactly what we were looking for.
Our new farm
spans 100 acres
of hilly and rolling terrain in north central New York. The region
is a vacation area with the Finger Lakes and the Wine Country Tour
starting just a few miles from the farm. The many ponds, wet lands, hay
fields, and pastures serve as home to fox, coyotes, hawks, bald eagles,
beaver, geese, and of course a few
The main alpaca herd lives in a 7,000 sq ft arena barn.
We make our own hay for winter months, otherwise
the alpacas dine on a multitude of pastures which are
rotated for grazing. The main
barn, originally built in the 1920ís
using surprisingly advanced construction techniques for the period, was completely renovated in
1995. The main barn now contains a beautiful three story semi-formal house along with a showroom, shop, fiber
processing area, and offices. A country store to show case alpaca
wear and to hold classes was constructed in 2000. The farm has been
further modernized with the
installation of a fiber optic network and a wind turbine which generates
electric power for the ranch.