Locust Trace Agriscience Center sophomores Kiley Power and Shantel Sturgill are working on a special project with alpacas.
In addition to researching various breeds and the alpaca industry, they have been caring for two alpacas named Billie Mae and Henri, and they’re preparing the alpacas’ fiber for sale.
Such projects, called a Supervised Agricultural Experience, are a requirement for all students at the Fayette County Public Schools’ Locust Trace program. Students there have the opportunity to learn about all aspects of agriculture, equine studies and veterinary science. Students work directly with animals and crops on a 82-acre site off Leestown Road.
Kiley and Shantel thought that many student projects involved goats, cattle, hogs and lambs, but they wanted to work with another animal. Future Farmers of America adviser Lewis Mink said the students’ alpaca project “was truly different” and “something that would really help them learn.”
The two students are working with Alvina Maynard, owner of River Hill Ranch in Richmond, who with the Kentucky Alpaca Association offered the two Huacaya alpacas for the project. Maynard is vice president of that organization. She told the Herald-Leader that the domestic livestock originated in South America and is raised predominantly for fiber and meat.
Shantel said they were excited that “someone with so much experience and wisdom in the industry was willing to donate to our project.”
“As the demand for local, sustainable, humanely raised natural products grows, so does the need for capable youth such as these ladies to ensure our industry rises to that demand,” Maynard said. She told the Herald-Leader that Kentucky needs new farmers. There is a demand for local produce and local clothing, such as that produced with the alpaca fiber, she said.
“We want people to see clothing as an agricultural product,” Maynard said. “We are paying attention to where our food comes from, but now we want to start the discussion on where our clothing comes from.”
Kiley and Shantel have grown partial to Billie Mae and Henri. Maynard said she finds it touching that they have shown “humility when it comes to their interaction and respect for the animal.”
They are the only two students in the Locust Trace FFA working with alpacas. Maynard said a student project involving alpacas is rare in Kentucky.
The two girls “have really put a lot of time and effort into it,” said Sara Tracy, community liaison for Locust Trace. She said they walk the alpacas on campus and stay after class, cleaning stalls.
On Thursday, Maynard visited Locust Trace to shear the two alpacas and teach the students how to prepare the fiber for sale. The fiber will then be sold at the Kentucky Sheep and Fiber Festival, scheduled for May 20 and 21 at Masterson Station Park in Lexington. It could bring as much as $25 a pound, Maynard said. The proceeds will pay for some of the cost of the maintenance and care of the alpacas and the continuation of the project, Tracy said.
The alpacas will go to the festival as ambassadors for the alpaca and for Locust Trace. Kiley said students at other schools in the district will get to see the alpacas as a way to learn about livestock and agriculture.