This weeks featured member is Victory Alpaca Ranch.
Yesterday I ventured down Hwy 434 to Victory Alpaca Ranch, on the outskirts of Mora. It’s a beautiful 40-minute drive through the canyon, and I tell you what, any time you need a “cute fix,” these adorable little animals fit the bill! It was definitely love at first sight with these gentle furry creatures. They stand about three feet high with long necks and large eyes.
I met with Darcy Weisner and her fiancée Brian McGill and their ranch-hand Uncle Ray Pecheco. They now run the family business started by Darcy’s parents, Ken and Carol Weisner 22 years ago. The Weisners realized shortly after their purchase of the 1,000-acre ranch, that it wasn’t big enough to raise cattle. Upon the advise from a friend, they decided to raise alpacas. Starting with 10 of these small fleeced animals, the Victory Ranch herd has grown to approximately 300. Alpacas were first bred in the Andes of South America, (specifically for their fiber), so they do very well in the high altitude and climate of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Their fiber is woven into a variety of items, including sweaters, shawls, and socks – even blankets and ponchos. Victory Ranch is now the largest alpaca yarn retailer in the United States. Darcy told me that alpaca fiber does not contain lanolin like sheep wool, so it never has to be chemically treated. It is as natural as it gets. Most people who are allergic to wool do not experience those symptoms with alpaca garments. Plus it is softer, lighter, and warmer than wool.
Darcy spoke about the animals as if they were dear family members. Each alpaca on her ranch gets a name as soon as it is born. She keeps a watchful eye on each one of them. She handles the breeding, gives their shots, and does 90% of the veterinary services herself, having studied homeopathic and allopathic medicines. Her goal is healthy animals with high-quality fiber. When their fiber is spun and sold, each skein is labeled with the name and photo of the alpaca it came from, adding a personal touch. And although the Ranch is not certified organic, Darcy and Brian run the entire operation on organically-sustainable principals. When she shared that with me, it made me even happier! They grow their own chemical- free hay, they compost waste from the animals and the kitchens, and they catch rainwater to re-water their fields when possible. This summer they will have eggs to sell from their organically-raised chickens!
They sell alpacas with expert follow-up support, and they board with 0% financing. Another fun thing to know is most of the employees at Victory Ranch are large Great Pyrenees dogs. The dogs also are family members who protect the alpacas from predatory wildlife as they freely roam the acreage of the ranch. Brian told me that after 18 years of being Darcy’s best friend, he finally won her heart, but he has yet to be named Employee of the Month! That honor always goes to Phoenix, one of the Great Pyrenees.
Victory Ranch is open March 15 through December 31, 10am to 4pm. Alpaca feedings are at 11 am, 1 pm, and 3 pm. You take a tour complete with Alpaca 101, be invited into the field to hand feed the alpacas, and shop in their 3,000 sq. ft. clothing and gift shop. Forty local artisans are represented in the gift shop. Starting this summer there will be a “Bring Your Own Knitting Workshop” every Thursday from 4 pm to 5 pm, where you can sit with a master knitter from Chili and learn about the craft. Plus going on now is the spring sale where you can buy one sweater and then get one at half price. The local secret is to come during the months of June and October when the babies, known as crias, are born. You may even be around to help name one. Last year 63 crias were born. Mid June is sheering time at the ranch. For one week all the alpacas get brushed, cleaned, and sheered. So you have no reason to not make a trip to Victory Ranch!