Category Archives: Marketing

Camelid Community Jamboree Targets New Owners

by Sheila Fugina

cc-logo-webCamelid Community’s “Fiber as Business” conference in Wooster, Ohio, in August created a great deal of excitement and enthusiasm about the potential for camelid fiber to generate income for alpaca and llama owners. That income potential is not limited simply to selling fiber and fiber products. A profitable camelid fiber industry would add value to our animals and make them more attractive to new owners, demonstrating why we raise camelids and what we can do with them—and we must have new owners if we are to succeed as an industry.

Just as the “Fiber as Business” conference was designed to provide a format and template for similar fiber conferences to be held in other parts of the country, Camelid Community has developed what we feel is the next step needed to grow our industry, an educational camelid jamboree designed to attract and educate the potential new owners who will insure that our industry’s future is a bright and strong one. The Camelid Community Jamboree also is designed to provide a template for use in future locations.

Target Audience—Young families and newly retired couples living on small acreages are the primary target for an educational camelid jamboree. They and others who are looking for family friendly, easy to care for animals that can generate an income flow are the main focus for such an event. The initial Camelid Community Jamboree will be held Sept. 19-20, 2015, at the Pierce County Fairgrounds in Ellsworth, Wisconsin—ideally located to draw people from a wide area in both Minnesota and Wisconsin and near enough to the Minneapolis/St. Paul metropolitan area to draw fiber enthusiasts. The event will be free to the public.

Sponsors—Sponsors of the initial Camelid Community Jamboree include Alpaca Owners Association (AOA), International Lama Registry (ILR), International Camelid Institute (ICI) and Greater Appalachian Llama & Alpaca Association (GALA). Additional groups also have indicated interest in becoming sponsors.

Content—The jamboree will include a series of short educational sessions, around 45 minutes or so, that will be repeated mornings and afternoons on both days so that people have the opportunity to attend all or most of the sessions no matter when they arrive. Topics will include camelid healthcare, nutrition, housing, training and handling, camelid 4-H projects, fiber both on and off the animal, the business end of fiber and demonstrations related to many of the topics. There will also be opportunities for hands on experiences with alpacas and llamas for both adults and youth, including animal walks, obstacle courses, etc. Other hands on activities will be fiber related, again for people of all ages. Attendees can leave the jamboree with all the relevant information needed to start their camelid adventure, and they will have made contacts with current owners who can be called upon for mentoring.

Vendors will offer a wide range of fiber and fiber products for sale as well as other camelid related items. In addition to providing a good marketing opportunity for the vendors, it also demonstrates to potential new camelid owners what they can do to generate an income flow from their animals. Exhibitors may have llamas and alpacas on display or for sale, and camelid organizations may have booths and displays to educate both current and future camelid owners as well as the general public. In addition, this will be an attractive venue for fiber mills, pools and cooperatives, as well as livestock related businesses—trailer manufacturers, feed suppliers, producers of farm buildings and equipment, etc. Local food vendors will provide meal and snack items for purchase.

The “workforce” for the jamboree will consist of volunteers: alpaca and llama owners in the region, members of regional and local camelid organizations and 4-H/FFA members and leaders in both Minnesota and Wisconsin, especially those with llama and alpaca projects. Additional details will be forthcoming the first part of 2015, and updates will be posted on Camelid Community’s website at www.camelidcommunity.us.

If you or your organization is interested in becoming a sponsor for Camelid Community Jamboree, or if you are interested in vendor or exhibitor information, please contact Sheila Fugina (bsfugina@frontier.com) or Barb Baker (bebaker@earthlink.net).

Llamas Attend Wisconsin Farm Technology Days

The following is about the 2013 event. This article was included in the lost issue No. 105 but is still worth reporting here.

This is a banner the Midwest Lama Association had made for use at its display at Wisconsin's Farm Technology Days.
This is a banner the Midwest Lama Association had made for use at its display at Wisconsin’s Farm Technology Days.

Members of the Midwest Lama Association sponsored a live animal display at the 60th Wisconsin Farm Technology Days held July 9-11, 2013 on a huge Barron County dairy farm in the northwestern part of the state. The event, which has grown to be Wisconsin’s largest outdoor farm show and one of the largest in the nation, is held on a different farm each year in various locations throughout the state. Attendance at this year’s three-day event was 40,000.

Wisconsin Farm Technology Days provides visitors the opportunity to see and talk with more than 600 commercial and educational exhibitors in Tent City. Virtually all activity at the host county level is coordinated and managed by the county’s University of Wisconsin Extension office in cooperation with the county’s Farm Technology Days committee and 700 to 1,000 volunteers.

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Julie Mazac of River Falls, Wisconsin, had a skirting table, drum carder and spinning wheel set up in the Midwest Lama Association tent during Wisconsin’s Farm Technology Days and answered many questions while she demonstrated fiber processing.

A pen of llamas anchored each corner at the entrance to the Midwest Lama Association tent, and different members provided animals each of the three days. A four-foot tall novelty llama stood guard outside the entrance and served to attract passersby into the exhibit. Once inside, visitors were treated to a colorful array of fiber in all forms—from raw fleeces, batts and roving to a wide variety of yarns and finished products.

Brenda Harting and Becky Willhite of Iowa demonstrated spinning and knitting at the Midwest Lama Association display.
Brenda Harting and Becky Willhite of Iowa demonstrated spinning and knitting at the Midwest Lama Association display.

Fiber processing was demonstrated with the use of a skirting table and drum carder, and spinners showed how to use both a traditional wheel and a drop spindle. In addition to Midwest Lama Association members with skills and interest in using their llama and alpaca fiber, members of the Indianhead Spinning Guild provided additional demonstrations and support. Finished fiber items included those that had been felted, knitted, crocheted and woven.

Free brochures and other handouts provided visitors with takeaways on general camelid care as well as more specific information on use of their fiber. A wonderful fiber display created by Midwest Lama Association member Danita Doerre explained the various types of llama and alpaca fiber and how they are used to make different kinds of yarn.

A fairly new organization, the Midwest Lama Association was formed this past year when members of both the Wisconsin Organization of Lama Enthusiasts and Lamas of Minnesota voted to dissolve their respective groups. People from Wisconsin and Minnesota make up the bulk of the membership of the new group with a goodly number also coming from Iowa. In addition, individual farms from as far away as Kentucky also are members.

Sheila Fugina, reporting

Camelid Community’s “Fiber as Business” Conference Is Huge Success

by Sheila Fugina and Barb Baker

cc-logo-web“Awesome!” “Electric!” “Outstanding!” Those attending Camelid Community’s first ever “Fiber as Business” conference were full of positive superlatives in social media in the days immediately following the August 9-10 event. More than 130 people from 20 states and Canada packed the Arden Shisler Conference Center in Wooster, Ohio, eager to learn how to generate an income flow from their llama and alpaca fiber and take our industry to a new level. “This was just what I needed, everything altogether that I needed to know,” said one participant who was ready to start doing something with her fiber by the end of the conference.

Designed to provide fleece producers throughout the camelid industry with the information they need in order to benefit from services currently available in the industry, the conference featured presentations from representatives of five fiber organizations and two fiber mills on the services and products they offer alpaca and llama owners. They included: Wade Gease, Alpaca Fiber Cooperative of North America (AFCNA); Paul Egan, The Alpaca Blanket Project; Chris Riley, New England Alpaca Fiber Pool (NEAFP); Robin Kuhl, Natural Fiber Producers; Larry McCool, Pacific Northwest Llama Fiber Cooperative (PNLFC); Heather Dee, New Era Fiber Mill, Gallatin, TN; and Allison Kazupas, 84 Alpacas Fiber Mill, Eighty Four, PA.

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Wade Gease (AFCNA), Margaret Van Camp (Blueface Leceister Union), Chris Riley (NEAFP), Larry McCool (PNLFC), Craig Estep (84 Alpacas Mll), Robyn Kuhl (NFP), Paul Egan (ABP), Heather Dee (New Era Fiber Mill)

The fiber speakers seemed to agree that there is a place for everyone’s fleece—whether alpaca or llama, low micron count or higher, older animal or young one. Over and over attendees heard, “Do something with your fiber!” And they were presented with plenty of options and opportunities to do just that. Camelid owners were advised to do what works best for them and their individual situations, whether they just want to get a check for their raw fleeces and be done with it, or whether they want to go farther up the value added chain with roving, yarn and finished fiber products of all kinds.

To help owners learn how to sell their fiber and fiber products, marketing expert Tara Swiger, author of Market Yourself, presented sessions on making the most of local and regional events and opportunities and also how to use online marketing and social media to sell yourself and your products. Dave Krebs, CPA and chief officer of the CPA Advisory Group, provided accounting and tax advice to help owners keep the IRS happy while putting as much of their fiber profits as possible in their own bank accounts. Margaret Van Camp, vice president of the Bluefaced Leister Union, explained how that specialty sheep industry has been successful in growing its market and carving out a niche, providing llama and alpaca owners with ideas on how to do the same in the camelid industry.

Randy Hammerstrom, from the USDA Livestock, Poultry and Grain Market News Office, gave an overview of the pricing information USDA provides to both individual consumers and to commercial operations. He explained how this information, which is reported anonymously, can bring consistency and credibility to the camelid industry. Hammerstrom also met with all the fiber presenters after the conference to go into more detail about how to get the camelid fiber industry on track in order to be included in this reporting. By the end of the meeting everyone agreed to cooperate and start a conversation to take camelid fiber to the next level.

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Randy Hammerstrom, Market Reporter for Livestock, Grain and Wool for the USDA, speaking with some attendees about the benefits of anonymous, independently verified pricing for camelid fiber

Conference-goers received a CD that contained all of the conference materials and speaker notes, as well as additional supporting material and resources, eliminating the need for a heavy stack of handouts. Each person also received what turned out to be a highly popular item—a colorful key chain with “Fiber is the Key” on one side and the Camelid Community logo and website on the other. One alpaca owner said her biggest take-away from the conference was that “we’re not competitors, but rather collaborators, with the llama community”. It truly was a camelid event.

The highlight of Saturday night’s dinner was auctioning off the unique felted centerpieces created by fiber artist Laura Harrawood of Leslie, Missouri, for each of the conference tables. Every centerpiece was a one-of-a-kind work of fiber art. Wade Gease showed his auctioning skills by getting the audience to “bid high and bid often”, raising more than $1,600 to go toward Camelid Community’s next educational event. In addition, each of the speakers at the conference received a beautiful hand felted flower fashioned by Debora Galaz of Lana de Flor, Wooster, Ohio.

Speakers had booths in the conference room where they could talk in more detail with attendees during breaks and also show them the wide array of fiber products available from their operations. The Alpaca Owners Association (AOA) also had a booth, as did the International Camelid Institute (ICI). There was almost always activity at the booths as conference-goers picked up additional information, signed on as members of pools and coops and purchased camelid fiber products.

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Conference attendees during a break.

The conference generated excitement about the possibilities and potentials of camelid fiber to generate income for alpaca and llama owners—and not just by selling fiber and fiber products. A profitable camelid fiber industry would add value to our animals and make them more attractive to new owners, demonstrating why we raise camelids and what we do with them. And make no mistake about it, we must have new owners if we are to succeed as an industry.

By the end of the weekend, everyone was exhilarated and there was an almost palpable energy around the conference room. As one owner put it, “I haven’t been this excited about the industry for a long time—after this weekend, I’m ready to get back into it with everything I’ve got.”

Camelid Community is the only national forum that offers the opportunity for dialog among representatives of national, regional and local camelid organizations as well as interested individuals and owners. The first joint llama and alpaca meeting was held in 1998 and later became the Camelid Community. Camelid Community meets every year to discuss a variety of topics that are determined by its participants. The 2013 group felt the time was right for a conference focusing on the business end of camelid fiber, and the 2014 “Fiber as Business” conference was the result. Past Camelid Community groups have also produced a number of brochures and publications on camelid care and uses that are available free for downloading. Check the Camelid Community website at www.camelidcommunity.us for upcoming events and activities as well as a report and photos from this year’s fiber conference.