Any Mainer who has visited the Common Ground Country Fair or driven around the state’s countryside knows that the Pine Tree State is blessed with a smattering of long-standing alpaca farms. Over the past few decades, these alpaca farmers in Maine have been able to sustain their living — even as many early adopters have left the industry — by maintaining diverse streams of income around the versatile animal, from fiber products to programs that allows people to “lease” an alpaca and board it at a farm for a fee.
Corry and Robin Pratt, co-owners of Northern Solstice Alpaca Farm in Unity and her partner, are such veterans in Maine’s alpaca industry. The couple worked in human relations at Hannaford’s corporate offices before they got their first three alpacas in 2004.
The Pratts started selling alpaca socks out of their garage in 2006 and only made $1,000 in sales their first year. Now, they have stores in Unity, Northport and Ellsworth, and this past year, Pratt said they finally passed the half million in retail sales mark.
Maine’s old guard of alpaca farms have incorporated another aspect to their business models to make sure the industry has legs for generations to come: education and mentorship.
The next generation of alpaca farmers in Maine
As a new generation of alpaca farmers emerges in Maine, they have a network of passionate mentors to help ensure that the charming animals are happy and healthy, but also that alpaca farming has a sustainable future in the Pine Tree State.
Ben Cowan and Michele Hutchins, co-owners of Blue Alpaca Farm in Belfast, are among that new generation. They purchased their first six alpacas six years ago from the Pratts at Northern Solstice Farm. The couples worked together at Hannaford’s corporate offices before the Pratts left to farm full-time.