Alpaca Hacienda owner and businesswoman, Beth Osborne, handed out clumps of fleece to a captivated girl scout audience with the sweeping vista of Temecula Valley at her back.
Teaching isn’t new to Osborne — she’s a former first through third grade teacher. But, the subject matter has changed.
“Teaching changed so much. (It’s) all about test scores and worries of pink slips, and my husband suggested we try something new,” Osborne said.
When raising alpacas came up as an opportunity, she put herself in school, paired with a mentor, learned by acquiring a mentor relationship, attending auctions, shearings, and shows.
Now, six years later, the Osbornes own their own three-acre ranch that houses over 60 alpacas in a business that both breeds and boards.
Of surviving recent economic hurdles, Osborne said, “Business is picking up and prices are leveling out, with pregnant females selling for about $15,000. Raising alpacas is an achievable dream for many, once again.”
The three-acre property is well managed by Osborne and a support staff that includes Karen Gooding and mother-daughter team, Tina and Alyssa Mendoza.
“I needed volunteer hours for a club, and my mother suggested the ranch,” 14-year-old Alyssa said. Now, she actively trains, educates, and adores the skittish yet gentle creatures, taught by Osborne, through participant observation.
Though the Mendozas don’t currently own an alpaca, they hope to someday. For now, they work and volunteer on the ranch, teaching others about the fluffy, energetic creatures.
The Alpaca Hacienda regularly hosts groups to its generous spread. A ring of hay bales serve as the classroom as the alpaca herd gathers at the fence to listen to their tenders talk on the beauty, elegance of their fiber, and gentle nature of the animals.
“I still love to teach,” Osborne said with a smile, as she demonstrated how the crimped fiber goes from shorn pile to the freshly spun yarn, encouraging the group on how to separate stickers and hay from the soft fleece.
The fleece, both in raw and yarn form, is another financial opportunity of owning alpacas. Osborne shook her head at the fortune in fleece she threw away in the beginning. Now, she and Karen card and spin yarn. It is sold online and someday soon, at the ranch.
“I’m still learning myself,” she said, recalling the loss of her first cria — or baby alpaca — two weeks after it was born. “My mentor let me cry it out, then told me to toughen up or get out of the livestock business.”
Now, with several dams expecting, and a four-week-old cria frolicking near its mother, Osborne and her team continue to show, and conduct alpaca outreach to the community.
To learn more about raising alpacas, purchasing fleece, or visiting the Alpaca Hacienda, visit www.thealpacahacienda.com.
Ashley Ludwig is a local writer and regular contributor to SWRNN.