WESTBOROUGH, Mass. — Growing up near fairgrounds in Syracuse, N.Y., Maureen Agley always wanted to be a farm girl. Now, as an Alpaca rancher, she's achieved that goal and is introducing the woolly creatures to shoppers at the Westborough Farmers' Market on Thursdays.
Angel Hair Alpacas of North Grafton, new to the market this year, has a couple of the animals in a pen adjacent to its booth, where items made with soft, warm alpaca fleece are sold.
Angel Hair raises alpacas for sale, breeding and fleece production, in addition to boarding the animals and showing them in competition, says Agley, who owns the family farm with Jay Cohen.
Transporting a couple members of her 20-strong herd to the farmers market requires some logistics, but Agley says a greater challenge was getting approval from town officials, including the Health Department, to display the animals.
Farmers markets, such as the ones in Westborough and Grafton, are ideal for drumming up curiosity about the animals and their fleece (the alpaca's is seven times warmer than sheep's wool for its weight).
"The biggest thing is getting the word out," says Agley. "It provides a draw for the farmers markets, allows the kids to have a little petting zoo, and people can watch us at work as well."
Agley describes the animals as "intensely curious" without the penchant for kicking or spitting, like their llama cousins.
"Alpacas just captured our hearts," she said. "They have a sweet, gentle disposition, are intensely curious, trainable, and just an easy farm animal to keep."