You may have seen Barbara Ronchetti’s herd roaming the fields at Island Alpaca off the Vineyard Haven-Edgartown Road. The animals — 35 or so — brave the winter weather owing to the unique properties of their coats. If you want to keep warm and cozy this winter, take advantage of that extra warm fleece yourself — without having to curl up with an alpaca.
The farm’s gift shop offers all types of items made from alpaca fiber, including a number of garments made by local knitters. You can find hats, scarves, gloves, mittens, baby jackets, and booties made from the fiber of the farm’s softest residents — baby alpacas.
Ronchetti explains the advantages of alpaca fiber over wool (the fleece of sheep or goats): “Because alpaca fiber is hollow cored, it acts as an effective insulator and is known to be 30 percent warmer than most breeds of sheep. It helps keep you warm in winter and cool in summer. It also naturally wicks and draws moisture away from the body and allows it to evaporate quickly, so you stay dry and comfortable.”
Alpaca fiber is durable, stain resistant, and hypoallergenic, making it a good choice for those sensitive to wool. The Island Alpaca herd includes animals in a variety of colors so the knitted products can be found in various shades of cream, gray, beige, and brown. Along with locally made items, the gift shop features many products made from alpaca fiber from around the world. And if you’re really adventurous, inquire about purchasing a member of the herd for yourself.
Island Alpaca, 1 Head of the Pond Road, Vineyard Haven.