That’s right—SuriPaco has an Alpaca Shed. You ask: What is the “alpaca shed”. It is SuriPaco’s mobile fiber collection and grading program. It is also Ken and Claudia, a Ford F-150 pickup, a trailer, portable sorting tables, vacuum cleaners, cardboard boxes, tape and a sense of humor. Most important, however, are the 3 to 4 classers and graders who meet us at each collection site. In July 2011 the “Shed” visited Bill and Elizabeth Johnson’s Abenaki Acres Farm, Stockton, N.J. at an event co-hosted by Wayne and Sue Robinson of Emelise Alpacas. Along with Nick Hahn, CEO of Alpaca United, the Shed educated new and old breeders alike about selling and grading fiber as well as the possibilities of participating in a commercial textile market. In September, the Shed was hosted by Bill and Linda Ley of Parris Hill Farm in Brownsville, VT where SuriPaco’s Shed collected, graded and classed about 1,000lbs of alpaca fiber. During these two visits, and with more than 2500 lbs. in hand, the Shed paid the majority of farms on-site with cash or check. At times, farms with larger volumes or who were looking at special production projects had their fiber boxed to be sorted and graded at a Maine wash facility.
How does the Shed work? The host farm contacts SuriPaco and arranges a collection date (the earlier before the event the better). Working together, the host farm and SuriPaco prepare and send information to alpaca farms in the region explaining SuriPaco’s program, explaining how they can sell fiber for cash (specifying that the fiber must be blanket from the current years clip), as well as how to set up a wholesale account with domestic product. The host farm provides space in their garage, barn or a tent for the set up. Some farms have chosen to have an “open” farm day providing seminars, spinning and dyeing demonstrations. On “event” day Claudia and Ken set up an intake table, 3-4 sorting tables and a number of boxes for the graded and classed fiber. The fiber is sorted into white, light fawn, fawn and dark fawn, brown, black and grey. It is classed by length and grade. Claudia “rough” grades each individual bag of fiber at the intake table prior to the final sorting and grading by our trained classers in an effort to speed up the process. The sorted and classed fiber is then placed in large plastic bags (about 50lbs each), suctioned and subsequently packed into boxes for transport to the wash facility. Eventually the fiber is used to manufacture products available from the SuriPaco store or sold in bulk to other producers.
Suripaco is looking forward to working with host farms in 2012 and is scheduling now.
Ken and Claudia