National Alpaca Farm day at Merritt’s Farm in Barboursville

A nurse turned farmer opens her property to the public once a year to celebrate the animals she cares for daily.

Julie Merritt and her husband Chip allow the public to their farm each year for National Alpaca Farm Day to celebrate their livelihood and educate attendees about the benefits of alpaca fleece. This family-friendly event has drawn a crowd to the Merritt’s farm for the past several years.

The Merritt’s farm is dedicated to the humane treatment of their animals and to the sustainability of alpaca fleece. The 24 alpacas living at the Merritt House Farm are sheared once a year to have their hypoallergenic fleece sold. Julie Merritt said alpaca fleece is used to make hats, pillows and bed comforters.

“We want to increase the sustainability of the alpaca,” she said.

For folks like Charlene Smith, an attendee at the event, the farm served as an idea for a future endeavor. Smith said she and her fiance might want their own alpaca farm someday, and their interest in alpacas was piqued when they were introduced to alpaca fleece products.

“They’re one of my favorite animals,” Smith said. “They’re gorgeous and gentle.”

Brent Oesterritter visited the Merritt’s farm as a way to enjoy some family time.

“We’re in visiting from Nome, Alaska, just having a good time,” Oesterritter said.

The Merritt’s open their farm for visitations for schools, retirement homes and churches, and they are also preparing for an upcoming conference.

“We are going to have a training center about what more we can do with alpaca fiber to increase the sustainability of the alpaca with other farmers,” Julie Merritt said.

The Merritt’s farm is located at 734 Wildcat Road in Barboursville.

Meg Keller can be contacted at [email protected].