Small Farm Meets Big Growth in Adairsville
Monday, September 19th, 2011
Retirement plans placed on the back of a weary stock market may have taken a beating over recent years, but one Adairsville couple has placed their future in the cloven hoof of a South American camelid.
Jerry and Liz Bates own and operate Southern Estate Alpacas, an Adairsville alpaca farm some 35 head strong with big plans for the future. Along with Jason and Laura Herr of Deer Hollow Alpaca Farm, the Bates will open their farm to the public Saturday for National Alpaca Farm Days. This weekend, guests will be able to visit the local farms, see their stock, feel their prized fiber and learn a little more about the breed.
Both families found themselves unexpectedly in the alpaca farming business not very long ago. The Bates have seen their herd double in size over the past year, opening their farm for National Alpaca Day last year with 15 alpacas. Now, 29 of their 35 alpacas are pregnant and with an 11-month gestation, their herd is again set to double in the next 12 months.
"It is very rewarding to sit on our front porch at the end of the day and look out over our pastures and see 35 alpacas out there grazing and frolicking around. It's very rewarding to see the progress that we've made," Jerry Bates said. "We're growing by leaps and bounds� The goal was to set ourselves up for an early retirement where we could just retire and enjoy life up in Adairsville and just kind of hang out on the farm - and we've put ourselves in position where that is within reach."
Currently, Jerry and Liz both work full-time jobs, maintaining and growing the farm in their spare time, but their goal is to retire to a life of full-time alpaca farming where their days will be spent together. To manage the growing herd, Liz Bates will retire early at the end of this year to focus attention on their investment.
The Bates have put a lot into creating their "foundation" herd. Just like steers and thoroughbreds, alpacas have bloodlines and pedigrees vital to their success in shows and fiber production. Southern Estate Alpacas counts an elite herdsire among its numbers with the son of a prized stud. All of these investments are building on the future of their herd.
Jerry Bates counts about 30 alpaca farms in the state of Georgia. After their herd doubles in size with the impending births, he expects Southern Estates Alpacas to be one of the largest in the state. With National Alpaca Farm Days and other outreach opportunities, Jerry hopes to share his passion for the animals with others.
"Our motto at our farm is 'pursuing our dream so we can help you start yours,'" Jerry Bates said. "And that's what we want to do with the knowledge that we've learned over the past couple of years."
Liz Bates was recently elected to the Southeastern Alpaca Association Board of Directors and serves as a co-chair for education. She too looks to spread the news about opportunities associated with alpacas.
"Everything we do right now is a new experience for us," Liz Bates said. "I hope, moving forward, to offer opportunities for farmers and interested people to learn about alpaca and to extend that to the veterinary world because there aren't a lot of vets that have a lot of experience with camelids."
In addition to prospective alpaca farmers, National Alpaca Farm Days will give guests a chance to meet the animals and see the final product of their fiber. A naturally hypoallergenic and insulating material, alpaca fiber is spun into yarn and used in various clothing pieces.
"[Visitors] will have an opportunity to get their hands on the fiber, whether it's actually on the animal and getting up close and personal with them or they can see what the finished product is," Liz Bates said. "You can feel the luxury in it. I just can't say enough positive about it, it's exquisite. It's been used by South American royalty for over 5,000 years and it still is. It's a great fiber used by many top designers and we're hoping to roll it out so more people have exposure to it."
Southern Estate Alpacas, 85 Bailey Road in Adairsville, will be open to the public Saturday and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. For more information, call (678) 618-2880 or visit www.sealpacas.com.
Deer Hollow Alpaca Farm, 15 Hunt Club Lane in Cartersville, will be open for National Alpaca Farm Days on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, call (770) 862-7102 or visit www.deer hollowfarm.com.
The Daily Tribune News (Cartersville, GA)