How did Manistee acquire an alpaca farm? It’s a nice story


MANISTEE – Manistee residents Debbie Erdman and her husband had never encountered an alpaca until the fateful day when they attended a National Alpaca Farm Day announced about seven years ago.

“We went to see what it was for the day, it looked like fun,” Erdman said. “And by the time we left, we knew that when Greg retired – which would have taken about two years from that day – that we were going to do it. “

The day after her husband retired, the couple opened G&D Alpaca Farm to the public.

“We first spent a few years working with animals to get to know and understand them so that we could share the interesting things about them with the public, and the rest is history I guess,” she declared. “It was easy to get on the bandwagon with the alpaca.”

On Saturday the Erdmans hosted their first Alpaca Farm Day event. At the event, people were able to visit, meet the alpaca, see how wool can be used to make yarn and made for clothes and other materials.

“They are very docile,” she said, but admitted the alpaca would spit if he was upset. “They are sweet, their eyes are huge and beautiful. They are just therapeutic for sitting and watching. … And of course all the products that come from their fleece.

RELATED: PHOTOS: Views of Manistee Alpaca Farm, Yarn Making Process


The event started at noon on Saturday, but the farm was already occupied by visitors before the official start time.

According to the farm’s FAQ, “Alpacas are raised for their fleece which is warmer than wool, softer than cashmere, wicks moisture and does not contain lanolin. It is considered hypoallergenic.

Erdman said the alpaca is “super soft” and “has wonderful qualities”.

There were four local people who volunteered to demonstrate parts of the overall process of creating yarn and working with wool.

“It was amazing how much we have here. I was delighted. I announced on Facebook that we were looking for some to volunteer their time that day, ”Erdman said.

RELATED: What To Keep In Mind When Visiting This Manistee Alpaca Farm

Jessica Smith and Sue Lundquist are two of the local residents who volunteered to show visitors how hand-spinning and carding alpaca wool works.

Lundquist, of Manistee, explained that the carding step involves removing vegetation or dirt that may be trapped in the wool, while straightening the fibers and pumping air into the wool by swelling it.

“Then you wind her up to do this, called a rolag that she (Smith) can spin,” Lundquist said as Smith sat next to her at the spinning wheel.

Then Smith, a resident of the Copemish area, takes the rolag fibers and twists them onto a fiber yarn and the wheel winds the new fiber onto the yarn for the final purpose of making a yarn warp.

“You can do any type of yarn: thick yarn, thin yarn, twisted yarn,” Smith explained. “The twist is more of an oppositely woven yarn (way).”

Smith said she had been spinning for about 20 years and started after a friend who raised sheep introduced her to the practice.

“She had a wheel and she let me learn how, she taught me. I just like the idea of ​​hot fibers and things you could do, ”she said.

Smith said she usually shoots right before a bigger project.

“It’s long and laborious to take natural wool and send it in and then spin it, fold it, roll it into a ball, or wind it up and then knit it,” Smith said.

Smith and Lundquist both noted how soft and warm the alpaca yarn was and both said they found the process of making the yarn relaxing.

Erdman said that although there are farms like G&D with alpaca, the United States does not have enough alpaca farms to support textile factories for alpaca wool clothing. It takes six months to collect the fleece from the factory in the form of yarn, the farm’s frequently asked questions on the signs.

Liz Rose was also present at the event and could be seen demonstrating the spinning and folding processes.

“It’s a single (strand) and so you take two or three singles depending on what type of yarn you want. So you turn (in one direction)… and you ride in the opposite direction, ”Rose explained.

Rose has been using a spinning wheel for about eight years.

“I retired and I was like ‘Oh my God I can turn, I have time to do it, I need to learn how to turn,’ she said. “I called my local knitting store and she said ‘Come in in an hour, I have a wife spinning.’”

This is how Rose learned the basics of wool spinning.

“It’s super relaxing. I love to knit and that’s how it started, ”she said, adding that she wondered if she could make her own yarn.

A fairly constant stream of visitors could be seen stopping at Rose’s two spinning wheels on Saturday to watch and learn how the process unfolds.


Erdman said she plans to expand the herd in the future and possibly continue alpaca shows if they have any particularly impressive alpacas.

Eventually, Erdman would also like to sell alpaca. But she noted that they are not at that point yet.

Currently, the farm has 12 alpacas of the Huacaya breed.

As the year rolls by, Erdman said there isn’t much that can be done to prepare the alpaca for the winter season.

“We make sure they are mowed in the spring so they have the rest of those months before winter comes to grow back their fleece and stay warm,” she explained. “And we make sure their pictures are up to date until November, because after that in Michigan you don’t need some pictures anymore.” … This is essentially it. We don’t heat their barn, we make sure their water doesn’t freeze. They eat their grain and their hay and that’s it. They are very easy.

G&D Alpaca Farm is open to the public until October 31, but is expected to be open for two days during the Manistee Victorian Sleighbell Parade and the Old Christmas Weekend event on the first weekend in December. After that, the farm plans to reopen for the spring-summer season on May 15th.

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