POMARIA — Not afraid to get down and dirty, more than 20 4-Hers packed their bags for a full day at Carolina Pride Pastures in Pomaria last week.
Alana West, Newberry County 4-H agent, said she had 23 students ranging from ages 6 to 12 and seven adults come out for the day at the alpaca farm on June 10.
Because of her own life experiences, West encourages youth to get involved with 4-H programs and activities.
West said she didn’t realize the opportunities 4-H provided, such as showing goats, when she was growing up.
But 4-H is not just about animals.
4-H is an organization where you can learn about livestock one day and shooting sports the next, not only teaching youth, but providing hands-on experiences to hopefully teach children the responsibilities that go along with their project of choice as well.
4-H participants were able to learn all about Carolina Pride Pastures on their trip from how the farm began, unique facts about alpacas, complete a wet-felting craft with fleece and completing a scavenger hunt. The experience was unique, West said because it was an alternative to agriculture and not something you see every day.
“The kids asked a lot of questions,” West said.
West said when some of the parents found out about the day at the pasture, they asked to also participate, which she gladly agreed to.
Buying the property she grew up on after moving back into Newberry County, Alicia Holbrook, owner of Carolina Pride Pastures, never expected to be operating an alpaca farm in her backyard.
The idea for the farm came to her during one of her youngest daughter’s 2 a.m. feedings when she was still a newborn.
Holbrook said there was a show on National Geographic about a farm that raised and bred alpacas. The idea piqued her interest and she later told her husband that was something she really wanted to do on their property.
Holbrook said the idea of looking into an animal’s eyes, knowing the other way you could make profit on them was to take them to get slaughtered, just broke her heart. The best thing about alpacas, she said, is that they are a fiber animal.
After spending two years getting land ready, Holbrook said they took delivery of the animals in November 2013, establishing Carolina Pride Pastures.
Today, the farm has 11 alpacas, with five of them pregnant and due in October.
Holbrook said the 4-H students asked a lot of good questions and were able to recognize larger words such as “indigenous” and “native” as they were going through some of the history of the alpacas.
“They were a great group with tons of questions,” Holbrook said. “We ended the day with each student coming up with a name for an alpaca. I told them I would keep several in mind as we have five females due to deliver crias (babies) this October.”
Along with some of the history learned and crafts, Holbrook said the students were shown how the alpacas are bathed. One of the most unique facts Holbrook said she was able to share with the students was that because of the area they live in, the biggest dangers to alpacas are deer.
Deer carry what is called a meningeal worm, which can be emitted through waste. If the alpaca were to eat the blade of grass with the worm-like animal on it, the worm would attach to their spinal cord, killing them. Holbrook compared it to heartworms in dogs.
Holbrook said she is currently in contact with Lever Farms and have been working to build a field trip business so that students can visit Lever Farms and then Carolina Pride Pastures.
“She and I are working together for their pumpkin season,” Holbrook said.
Overall, West said there was a lot to learn about alpacas.
“Did you know they are communal poopers? And that is something I noticed, without being told, and had to ask about,” West said. “What a great conversation starter!”
West said she also learned about things made from alpaca byproducts.
“There are a lot of worthwhile local field trips here in Newberry County and Carolina Pride Pastures is certainly one of them,” West said.