Carla Peterson, owner of Twiddle Dee Farms in Clinton, looks out as her son, Peyton, walks across a massive enclosure with three, beautiful female alpacas.
“Aren’t they just so beautiful,” she says quietly before wondering off to grab a hose. “I have to be ready to cool them off, it’s so hot out here today, but they are so easy to work with; I just love it.”
In addition to the three females, there are two males on the farm, all courtesy of Tom and Liz Cooper, who own War Valley Alpacas in Rogersville, Tenn. The Coopers selected Twiddle Dee Farm to board and care for a select group of its award-wining alpacas, and they are expected to stay at the Sampson site for the next couple of years, said Peterson.
“One of the factors of the farm that I have not done, to date, is diversify,” she explained. “Any farm, large or small, diversity is a way to mitigate risks associated with farming. I had been so focused on the infrastructure to the farm that I had not had the opportunity to move forward with some of my diversity.”
The Animal Welfare Approved, three-generation farm produces sheep, has free range chickens and even boards horses. “For the most part, sheep production has been my primary activity,” Peterson explained. “In thinking about how to bring agri-tourism to the farm, having the alpacas here could do just that.”
After meeting with the Coopers, who have won 20 championships, 35 blue ribbons, 40 other show ribbons, best of show, and other national awards with alpacas raised on their 66-acre Tennessee farm, Peterson was one step closer.
“They have a large farm to manage and they travel a lot,” explained Peterson. “They were divesting some of their herd. To be honest, I didn’t think about boarding the alpacas, my first interest was to purchase them. But after some time lapsed, I couldn’t quite make up my mind and I told them I needed to wait.”
However, the Coopers paid a visit to Twiddle Dee, that sits off Taylors Bridge Highway and just over five miles south of Clinton, and liked what they saw.
“It kind of worked out nicely,” Peterson noted. “After talking with them, boarding was the best idea, because this way, it works on so many levels. When they said that they liked the farm and wanted us to care for them, it was perfect. To say the least, we are very fortunate and appreciative of this opportunity.”
The alpacas arrived in Clinton Tuesday.
“They had just traveled about six and a half hours and came off the trailer looking perfect,” laughed Peterson. “Look at them now, they are still perfect, just beautiful.”
She gently takes the water and squirts their legs. “They don’t like it so much on their backs,” Peterson says softly, as the alpaca named Yazmine lifts her head toward her new keeper, as if to say thank you for cooling her off. “They like the water on their legs and on their bellies.”
To her knowledge, Peterson said it is the first time alpacas have been boarded in Sampson County. “I know they have (them) in Raleigh and I know they have had lammas, but I don’t know anyone east of I-95 that has had alpacas,” she said. “Alpacas are a novelty for this area.”
For that reason, the animals seemed like the right fit for Twiddle Dee Farms.
“Part of the agreement I have with Tom and Liz is that they would be OK with it if people came in and touched them, helped me feed them and help get the sandspurs out of their wool,” Peterson said with a laugh. “And that is something that I plan on doing. In fact, Liz does the carting of the wool and makes homespun items with it, and she said she is willing to come back and hold some classes here locally. I am just thrilled about it.”
However, don’t get excited about seeing them this summer.
“It’s just too hot,” Peterson explained. “We are going to start doing the tours in the fall. The regular tours will be on the weekends.”
The tours will also coincide with the opening of Belle Grace, a guest house on the farm that will welcome small groups for weekend stays.
“It will give them a chance to have a hands-on experience and a nice place to stay for the weekend,” she said.
Peterson said her target audience is women.
“I think that women who want a different experience, not just to look at animals on a farm, but to actually go out and get hands-on experience with them ,will be interested in what we have here,” she said. “I believe there are women out there who want to do that.”
Most would think the alpacas and the farm would be a great place for children, and thus the target for Peterson, but not true, the farmer owner pointed out.
“Well, the first thing you think is that kids would be the target, but I will be honest with you, I have alpacas on one side of the highway and alpacas on the other side of the highway. A farm is a dangerous place, especially for children, and then you throw in a busy highway that is in the middle, it is not good.”
But that’s not to say that children haven’t been on the farm or are not welcomed there. “Oh no, they are; it is just a few at a time,” Peterson acknowledged. “Not in big groups.”
While Peterson primarily works with her husband Chris, her son Peyton has been helping her with the alpacas.
“She has done a great job with making it all work together well,” the 24-year-old said.
Although Peterson believes that the farm, which sits on 105 acres of land (they work approximately 125 acres), may never be complete, she is pleased at its progress over the last few years.
“It is coming along; it is a work in progress,” she said. “I think it is an experiment to see how a small, tiny farm can survive these days …”
Her thoughts go to a small chunk of spurs knotted in the hair of an alpaca named “Michelle, My Belle” and she begins picking them out of the animal’s fur.
When she is finished, she takes a minute to thank the public for supporting her and her families’ efforts on the farm. “We just appreciate their support and encourage them to set up a time to come visit us.”
For more information about the arrival of the alpacas, follow Twiddle Dee Farm on their website at http://www.twiddledeefarm.com or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sheepfarmer.
To reach Doug Clark call 910-592-8137 ext. 123 or email to email@example.com.