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I was delighted to discover an alpaca farm in Mississippi and marked my calendar to make the short trip to Stringer, Mississippi for a visit. Each year the farm has a fall festival and it was a wonderful experience.
This working alpaca farm is located just a few miles north of Laurel, Mississippi. These gentle hills and rural landscape are right in tune with the popular television show, Home Town, on HGTV which stars local residents Erin and Ben Napier.
But at A Stroka Gene Us, the alpacas are the stars of the show. For the fall fiber festival, alpacas were corralled into a small pasture near the festival entrance. Food was provided. The animals were eager to meet their visitors – especially with a hand full of food readily available.
The parking area was filling fast when we arrived, but there was no need for concern as we were efficiently guided to an open parking space near the entry.
Our trip included visiting with the alpacas and other farm animals, carding and spinning demos, shopping with the product and food vendors, and a stop at the gift shop. Here’s the rundown of our day.
A Stroka Gene Us
The farm began in New York and relocated to Mississippi in August 2012. It’s a working farm with many different activities at any time. In addition to the care of the 30+ alpacas on site, they teach classes in spinning fiber, crocheting, knitting, needle felting and more. Ask for a class and they can probably help you learn some fiber skills! Mary Ann Stroka is the resident expert on fiber creations and gave me a quick tour of the main operating areas.
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The Huacaya alpacas gathered near the fence in the petting area. They weren’t shy and are very inquisitive animals. Notice the beautiful colors in their coats. That is some great fiber work just waiting to happen. Our tour covered the A-Z of life with alpacas – the care and feeding, shearing process, carding the fiber, spinning, and finally some ready-to-crochet yarns in the farm store.
Even with the animals in the pasture, we could see the beautiful brown coats and touch the soft fibers.
Alpaca fleece is the proper name for the fibers harvested from alpacas. it is a soft and silky natural fiber, yet durable and easy to care for. It is often compared to the wool from sheep, however, it does not have lanolin, and is therefore hypoallergenic. Many consider alpaca fleece, and the resulting garments, to be warmer than sheep’s wool and less itchy. In the photo above the fleece has been harvested and placed in this wire bin for tumbling to remove the larger of the leaves and twigs that have accumulated in the harvesting process. Each stage of processing continues to refine the fleece into yarn.
Alpaca fleece is fine and lightweight. It does not retain water and is somewhat water resistant in a finished product. This fiber was nature’s way of providing for the animals when they lived in the harsh climates of South America’s mountain ranges.
In this photo, the fibers have been carded and are ready to begin the spinning process. Notice the depth of color and the cotton-candy texture of these soft fibers.
Preparing the Fibers for Crochet
The next phase of processing is to move the bulk of fiber through a spinning wheel and onto a reel. Once on the plastic reel, the process is complete and the yarn is ready to move to production of clothing or household items.
Vendors and Festival Activities
This festival was so much fun! The products in the vendor booths were just perfect for a fall outing. This goat milk soap is available as a retail product in the farm store.
The Gift Shop and Product Sales Center
My day at the festival ended in the farm store/gift shop. The room was packed with everything from raw fiber to completely finished products. There was truly something for everyone!
Tip: When working with alpaca garments, care is important for the longevity of the finished garment. After handwashing, rinse the garment twice in clean, cold water. Then gently squeeze out the excess water by hand. Be very gentle to avoid stretching and wrinkles. Lay the clothing between two large towels and then slowly roll the towels to absorb more of the moisture while holding the proper shape. Let the garment “rest” in the towels for a few minutes and then lay the garment flat on a dry towel to finish the care process. Do not hang to dry or use a drying machine.
The End of the Day
Yes, it was a full day of adventure at A Stroka Gene Us, and I enjoyed every minute. This guy checked out before the day was over, but his work was done.
If You Go:
383 County Road 155
Stringer, Mississippi 39481
Call ahead to request a farm tour – (716) 863-4366
Hours of Operation
Tuesday through Saturday – 11:00 am – 5:00 pm
Mark your calendar for the 2018 Fall Festival – November 17th, 2018
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