This is the first of a series of interviews with some of our tremendous Mill customers. Introducing Craig and Jane from Worthington Acres Alpaca Farm & Fiber Mill!
YarnSuperhero: I am really impressed with your website and also with the variety of products and services you offer. What do you think sets you apart from other mills and farm shops?
Craig & Jane: From the start our alpaca farm has been geared towards fiber production. Our goal has always been sustainability. While we offer top quality genetics and have many happy customers on the breeding end our main focus is on the wonderful fiber products made from alpaca fiber. During 2009 we opened a fiber mill on our farm. Our goal is to provide our customers with quality fiber processing that allows for a profitable return. In less than 2 years our client base has grown to over 150 farms, many being return customers from year one. Our mill does not have a minimum order requirement which allows us to cater to our clients needs. We also charge for outgoing weight rather than incoming. This allows for a return on the processing investment which is greater because customers do not pay for waste. During 2010 we fell in love with felt.
Our newest investment on the farm is a 48” needle FeltLOOM. The products produced from the FeltLOOM are of the best quality felt possible. We have also developed our own line of felt shoe inserts called FeltPAC shoe inserts. Mostly 100% alpaca and occasionally blended with a small amount of locally grown wool. Finally we contract with many artists’ who are more than happy to knit up a nice sweater, hat or some mittens made directly from yarn grown on our farm and processed in our mill. What sets’ our farm apart is the services we offer. From start to finish Worthington Acres Alpaca Farm & Fiber Mill offers full customer support to our clients who quickly become friends.
YS: Why did you decide to raise alpacas and offer mill services? What was it like getting started?
C & J: We researched a variety of livestock prior to finding alpacas. Truth be known we fell in love with the big brown eyes the first farm we visited.
Alpacas fit into our lifestyle and enabled us to remain at our day jobs which we both had too many years invested in to leave. Getting started was easier than we anticipated since we started our farm from an open hay field. We were fortunate enough to find a great mentor farm right from the start. Our initial purchase was 1 maiden female and 2 males. Our herd has grown and we currently have 90 – 100 alpacas on our farm. We are now at the number of alpacas we feel are needed to support our growing fiber business especially our trademark product FeltPAC shoe inserts.
YS: Without giving away any of your trade secrets, what are some of the more tricky aspects of processing alpaca fiber?
C & J: Getting the fiber clean is most important. Depending on the husbandry practices of the sending farm this can be a challenge.
Short cuts and varying fiber lengths can also be a challenge. Shorts, varying lengths and debris can cause “slubby” yarn.
Suri and Mohair fibers can always present a challenge. Regardless of the type of fiber, patience is what is truly needed to process a quality end product. Vintage yarns can not be rushed.
YS: Which of your products or services excite you the most?
C & J: Our needle felt fabrics and FeltPAC shoe inserts. Most months we process and hand craft 100’s of pairs of FeltPAC inserts and send them off to farm stores across the nation and into Canada. Felt fabric is in high demand and highly sought after by crafters and artisans alike. Felt from our loom is quickly becoming the largest part of our mill business.
YS: What things have been the most surprising, or unexpected about being in the fiber processing business?
C & J: From day one we have had a minimum of 6 month backlog. Fiber arrived at our mill for processing before our mill equipment arrived. We are amazed at the amount of fiber there is to be processed.
YS: What is the most fun part of your job?
C & J: Dyeing fiber, felt and yarns is fun. We get to do this with our daughter who is a master at dyeing bright and brilliant colors.
YS: What is your typical day at the farm like?
C & J: We awake early on our farm and after a relaxing morning coffee we head to the barns for daily clean up of manure, fill water buckets and hay feeders. After the morning chores it is time to go into the mill and begin to process fiber. Most weeks we welcome 2 or 3 farm visits. During the visits we get to show off our alpacas and our fiber mill. After a day of processing fiber we head to the barn again to re-fill water, hay and feed some grain. We also like to spend time with the alpacas in the afternoon halter training cria, trimming toe nails or just relaxing on the bench for an hour after the chores are complete. The afternoon takes us back into the mill and we typically process fiber until around 9:00 pm. After an hour or so of answering email, updating our web page and keeping up with our Facebook friends we head to bed for much needed rest, tomorrow is another day.
YS: What are some of the more challenging aspects of your business?
C & J: Keeping up with the demand and making sure our clients have finished fiber products in a timely manner.
YS: I’m happy that you use Unicorn Products at your mill. Can you tell me what you like the most about them and what made you decide to give them a try?
C & J: The fiber wash seems to clean our fiber better than any other soap we have tried. We also seem to use less fiber wash than other soaps.
The fiber rinse does a good job helping to control static.
Many thanks to Craig and Jane from Worthington Acres Alpaca Farm & Fiber Mill. You can find more info about their products and services, and about alpacas in general, at their excellent website.