Alpaca farm offers relaxation, education
HOLLIS – The next time you’re feeling stressed, forgo that extra brownie or therapeutic shopping trip and spend some quality time with the alpacas at Acappella Farm in Hollis instead.
These docile, timid animals who hum rather than bray or whine are very calming to be around, according to Kathy Reczko, who owns the farm with husband Doug.
“You can feel your blood pressure dropping,” she said.
While Reczko was speaking, her young granddaughter, Adrianna, toddled about among the easy-going creatures, who peacefully went about their business as though she was one of the herd.
The Reczkos have owned this farm property at 183 Silver Lake Road for some time, but had rented it out to horse owners rather than using it for their own animals. The horse owners eventually got their own farms, leaving the property unoccupied.
At about the same time, Kathy Reczko was laid off from a job in the high-tech industry.
“I decided to take the risk and do something different,” she said.
As a crocheter, Reczko had always enjoyed working with alpaca yarn. With their farm property available, she knew exactly what kind of animals she wanted to have there.
“Alpacas are much more my thing than horses,” she said.
Acappella Farm is now home to two dozen alpacas, who are kept for their fleece and to help educate the community. The farm also offers breeding services. Ultimately, Reczko would like to have a herd of 50 to 60 alpacas.
“We’re hoping for lots of crias this spring,” she said, referring to the baby alpacas.
Acappella Farm has welcomed visitors since it was established in 2011. Thus far, the Reczkos have hosted Girl Scout troops and groups from senior centers and day care centers, along with curious passersby, who are eager to learn about alpacas.
“People often get alpacas confused with llamas,” Reczko said.
The differences between these two members of the Camelid family are significant. Most importantly, alpacas are more docile. Llamas have a reputation for belligerent behavior and particularly for spitting at people.
Alpacas, on the other hand, rarely spit at people. They do spit at one another, Reczko said, especially pregnant females who are arguing over food.
These gentle creatures are also rather clueless when it comes to defending themselves.
“Llamas can be used as guard animals for alpacas because they’re a more aggressive animal,” she said.
Because alpacas are timid and take time to trust new faces, Reczko advises first-time visitors to the farm approach the animals with a calm demeanor. This includes moving slowly, speaking quietly and leaving canine companions at home, as the alpacas are terrified of dogs.
If an alpaca is amenable to being touched, a visitor’s first instinct may be to pat the animal on the head. This will scare the alpacas, Reczko explained, who prefer to be patted on the neck or back.
“They all have different temperaments, so some will be very curious and some will be very shy,” she said, of her alpacas’ responses to visitors.
Interested parties are encouraged to contact Acappella Farm to make arrangements for a visit. Kids can also become regularly involved with the alpacas by joining the farm’s 4-H Club, which is the first alpaca 4-H Club in Hillsborough County. The club is almost at capacity, but Reczko will be expanding the club as the herd increases in size and allows for additional members.
“This is such a fantastic community to do something like this,” she said of their 4-H efforts. “People are so appreciative.”
Acappella Farm in general has met with a warm reception thus far.
“The community support here has been amazing,” Reczko said. “I’ve had people tell me it’s the highlight of their day to drive by and see that the alpacas are out. I love to hear that.”
Now that spring has arrived, the community will have two unique opportunities to engage with the alpacas. The first is the “Pick Your Fleece” open house on Saturday, April 21, where visitors can select which alpacas’ fleece they’s like to buy for knitting and crocheting projects.
The second is the alpacas’ annual shearing, which will take place Saturday and Sunday, May 19-20. Those who selected fleeces in April will be able to pick them up at this time.
“It’s a bit of a finer grade than sheep’s wool,” Reczko said, comparing alpaca fleece to cashmere in terms of softness.
Reczko’s enthusiasm for the alpacas she cares for and the community that has embraced the work she does is palpable.
“My hope is that the people in Hollis will know what alpacas are and what an amazing fiber they produce, and love them as much as I do,” she said, “that when people drive by, they’ll get a snippet of joy.”
Teresa Santoski can be reached at 594-6466 or firstname.lastname@example.org.