Creativity breeds alpacas – Exploring a small-town Ontario alpaca farm

For many of us, the summer of 2020 was spent exploring our own backyards, and for some of us, this meant day trips to the good ol’ 519. You know the places we’re talking about: the area code which includes our beloved spots just outside “the 6ix” — Elora, Guelph, Tobermory, and Kincardine — to name a few.

With travel restrictions across the country and fears of contracting or spreading Covid-19, leaving the city for a quick day trip has become the norm and the closest thing to that “getaway” feeling.

The days of hopping on a Porter flight to New York City for the weekend, or enjoying some live music at a bustling street festival may seem so far away, but that doesn’t mean that fun and novel experiences are completely out the window.

Needless to say, we all had to get a little creative with our travel plans this year by learning how to make the most out of our surroundings — and thankfully, Ontario has a lot to offer in this department.

In the spirit of this spontaneity and creativity, we happened to be driving up a regional road in Bruce County, about two and a half hours outside Toronto, and couldn’t help but notice herds of alpacas running freely on the property to our right. Were we in the Andes or could this really be Lucknow, Ontario?

One abrupt U-turn later, we drove up the long driveway to find mother and daughter, Dee and Adria Graham, tending to their precious alpacas. They were surprised but pleased to see visitors, and were open to giving us a tour of the property — with masks and at a proper social distance of course. They encouraged us to get close to the alpacas as they pointed some of them out by their uncommon names, like Feleena, named after a Marty Robbins song. A lot goes into their naming, explained Dee, “they all have unique names, they’re unique animals”.

Creativity breeds alpacas - Exploring a small-town Ontario alpaca farm

This mother and daughter duo run DL Alpaca Farms, the second largest alpaca farm in Ontario. They welcome visitors from across the province to pet and take pictures with the alpacas at no fixed price, though a small donation for their time is encouraged. After touring the property, which holds about 100 female alpacas, 40 male alpacas (for breeding purposes), and one llama (on coyote watch duty), you’re invited to a quaint gift shop where you can buy alpaca wool socks, mittens, hats, and even some local maple syrup.

The alpacas themselves are everything you’d expect them to be — incredibly soft, and absolutely adorable. They are not shy to come up to you and greet you with a nuzzle on the cheek or two, although some of them do prefer to keep their distance, probably wise given the times we’re in.

Like many businesses in their situation, Covid has taken a real toll on the Graham family’s seasonal activities. Around this time of year, the pair are normally busy with country fairs, local events, and alpaca shows — all of which were cancelled due to lockdown measures. “It’s sad and I feel really bad for the people that depend on those sort of things for their livelihoods,” Dee told me.

If you’re looking to get outside the city for some fresh air, and could use some warm and fuzzy alpaca nuzzles, do yourself a favour and visit DL Alpaca Farms. You can make an appointment on their website or drop by if you happen to be in Bruce Coutry.

For more pictures and information, visit the DL Alpaca Farms Facebook page.