— The Openherd Team

About Calpaca

History of Calpaca

By Vicki Arns

Californians have had a long standing love affair with alpacas from the very beginning. Californians purchased alpacas from the first importation from Chile in 1983 and subsequent imports through the '90s when animals came from Peru and Bolivia. It was only a matter of time that a few alpaca owners would get together to socialize, share stories and learn from each other.

In 1987, former member Ron Brennan and his wife Carol Ann hosted an informal meeting in their home. There were seven ranches represented by Vicki Arns, Wayne & Eileen Ausland, Ron & Carol Ann Brennan, Cecile Champagne, Terry & Pat Erwin, Arnie Feldsher, Eric Hoffman, and Judy & Mac Mckeon. During this meeting, it was decided that regular meetings of alpaca owners should be held to discuss health, nutrition, and successes and failures so they could learn from each other. Information collected also helped researchers identify and find solutions to problems.

In 1989, the name "Calpaca" was adopted, and the membership had grown to 21 ranches. Meetings were held quarterly, and Calpaca became the first geographic affiliate of AOBA. Early offices were President, Secretary, and Treasurer. Marie Pritchard, while serving as president of Calpaca in 1994, wrote the first newsletter and called it the "Calpaca Connection" because it connected all the members and provided news and updates whether members could attend meetings or not. By l997, the membership had increased to 41.

As the membership grew and the number of alpacas in California increased, the emphasis shifted to include more marketing. Calpaca ads were placed in trade and fiber magazines, and members volunteered to display alpacas at events such as the Grand National Stock Show at the Cow Palace, the California Farm Equipment Show and International Exposition in Tulare, and fiber events such as CNCH (Congress of Northern California Handweavers). Alpacas could also be frequently seen at local fairs and parades.

Calpaca was the first in many areas, but not in shows. They didn't have their first show until 1997 at the Trentadue Winery in Cloverdale. However, it was so successful that Calpaca now sponsors, or co-sponsors,  with SoCalpaca, an annual show.

Meetings are regularly held at a member's ranch on the second Saturday of the second month of every quarter. Business is discussed, and professional presentations are conducted during the meetings. There now is a five-member board of directors who hold two-year terms. There are now over 159 members; and as history repeats itself, more people will become interested in alpacas, and Calpaca will continue to grow and mature.