Get to know the artists of this year’s Arts Festival
Editor’s note: This is the first in a new series of weekly mini-features on artists who will be at the Perham Center for the Arts for this year’s Arts Festival, part of the 2014 Turtle Fest events. We will be featuring one artist per week, every week leading up to the festival.
Scott and Linda Elmore are the owners of Foothills Alpaca Farm, near Backus, Minn.
They own nearly 20 alpacas. They breed them, raise them, and then shear off the animals’ coats every spring in order to make yarn, hats, socks, scarves and other items out of the warm, soft fleece.
The Elmores will be among many area artists and crafters displaying their goods at this year’s Arts Festival in Perham, taking place at the Perham Center for the Arts as a part of Turtle Fest.
We asked the Elmores five questions about their business:
1) What is an alpaca?
Alpacas are a domesticated member of the camelid family. Camelids include alpacas, camels, llamas, guanacos and vicunas.
They are known for their fine fleece, as it is compared to cashmere for fineness and seven times warmer than sheep wool.
They are from the Andes Mountains in Peru, Chili and Bolivia. There are around 100 alpaca farms in Minnesota, and growing.
2) How many alpacas do you have?
We have a total of 24 alpacas on the farm. Some are animals that we board for other farms and 19 are ours.
3) What do you do with them?
We take some of the alpacas to different events, like the Arts Festival in Perham or to competitions and shows.
We sell some of the alpacas to others to start or add to their herds. Prices start at $250 for non-breeders. We breed to try and improve our herd and sell products made from their fleece.
4) You make many items from the alpaca coats, such as mittens, hats and scarves. What does that process look like?
We shear the alpacas once a year. The fiber is then skirted and we send some of the fiber to a mill to be made into roving and yarn. Some of the fiber is sent to be made into batting that quilters and people who do felting can use. We send some to a co-op that we belong to, and then order socks and other items from them. Some is hand-spun into yarn.
From the yarn that we receive, I will knit hats and scarves. We have friends that will make some other items. Some of the items we purchase for resale. Some items are taken to shows, where they’re judged on a number of factors.
5) How and when did you get into this?
We first heard of alpacas from friends of ours. We did some research online and found a farm north of here that was having an open house. We went to the open house with a notebook and questions. After that visit, we were hooked.
We purchased our first alpacas in 2006 and boarded them on a farm by LeSueur, Minn. In 2010, we retired from our jobs in the Twin Cities and moved to the property we own by Backus.
Foothills Alpaca Farm is open to visitors year-round; advance appointments are requested. For more information about the Elmores and their alpacas, visit their website at foothillsalpacafarm.com or call 218-957-3291.