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Virtual Farm Tour: Alpacas abound at Hidden Gap Farm

Editor’s note: The annual Rutherford and Polk farm tour is being staged online this year. Farms can be visited weekly at facebook.com/ncfoothillsfarmtour/

One of the most versatile natural fibers in the world is produced at Hidden Gap Farm on Howard Gap Road in Saluda, where Carol and William Guzewicz tend their herd of 18 alpacas.

But at a time of the year when they would be gearing up for Christmas sales, their biggest of the year, they are stymied by the pandemic and are not planning to sell products over the holidays this year.

“Hopefully,” Carol said, “we can return to selling for the Christmas markets again next fall.”

Each alpaca produces 3-5 pounds of fiber. Meanwhile, her fiber inventory takes up about half of their basement, where she also processes the raw fiber into fiber batts used to make an array of products.

From their hand-processed harvest of fiber, they make products ranging from hats and scarves to clothes dryer balls.

Her most popular products are her hats, which she sells at markets and craft fairs. “And, I also like making them the most. I try to make one style in three sizes and different colors so that I have a good selection for people,” she said.

A beautiful Christmas present such as a scarf or hat happens only after the endless daily work that must go into maintaining a herd of alpacas. Their long necks and erect heads adorned with an explosion of fur that often covers their eyes would make a novice think keeping them is just one big love fest. Adorable as they may be, they are livestock. Tending them means keeping them healthy and safe.

“Alpacas are pretty easy keepers. Fencing is required to keep predators out, and we provide shelter from severe weather in the winter, and in the summer, we keep fans running so they don’t overheat,” Carol said.

With eating habits similar to goats, alpacas browse, moving from various grasses to some bushy plants. Carol supplements their grazing with processed alpaca food.

You can tell tending their herd is a labor of love.

“Our goal is to raise healthy happy alpacas for breeding and fiber production,” Carol said, “but we see the animals as an extension of our family.”

 

Submitted by Larry McDermott