Dowagiac Alpaca farm to host open house

Dowagiac’s Chris and Ruth Szakaly show off one of the young alpacas they are raising at their farm on Peavine Street. The couple will be showing off their animals during a special open house event, held on Sept. 26-27. (Leader photo/TED YOAKUM)

Dowagiac’s Chris and Ruth Szakaly show off one of the young alpacas they are raising at their farm on Peavine Street. The couple will be showing off their animals during a special open house event, held on Sept. 26-27. (Leader photo/TED YOAKUM)

Once home to a stable of horses, the 12-acres of Peavine Street land owned by Dowagiac’s Ruth and Chris Szakaly is again occupied by a pack of furry, friendly, four-legged creatures.

Though they’re not exactly the kind most Cass County residents are used to seeing milling about the local countryside.

Locals will have a chance to meet the couple’s pack of alpacas during a special open house event at their farm from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 26, and Sunday, Sept. 27. Held in coordination with similar alpaca farms and ranches across the country that weekend, visitors to the Dowagiac farm will have the opportunity to learn more about the domesticated species of camelid and about the socks, stuffed animals and other products made from their soft, hypoallergenic fur, Ruth said.

“Every year, the national organization [Alpaca Owners Association], launches the fall season with a celebration of alpaca farms,” Ruth said. “It always happens near the end of September. It’s a good time for people come out to visit and to shop for alpaca apparel for the cooler weather.”

Ruth and Chris, a native of South Bend, are recent transplants to the Dowagiac area, moving from San Diego to their Pokagon Township farm last year, with their animals arriving in November, she said.

“We figured that, since we both have aging parents living here in the Midwest, we knew we would move out here eventually,” Ruth said. “We didn’t know we would end up here in Dowagiac, though we’re really happy with the location.”

The couple got into raising alpacas in 2012 while still living in California, in part to transition into a slower lifestyle and in part to fulfill one of Ruth’s longtime desires to work with the gentle, fuzzy animals, Ruth said.

“I was drawn to alpacas because you don’t eat them, they are fairly low maintenance and have phenomenal fleece that contributes to a lot of nice apparel,” Ruth said.

Alpacas, which belong to the same family as camels and llamas, are known for their luxurious coats of fur, which is generally softer than wool and, due to the lack of lanolin wax contained in sheep hair, is less likely to trigger allergic reactions, Ruth said. The animals are shorn once a year in spring, which helps them handle the warmer summer weather.

The Dowagiac couple is currently raising eight alpacas on their property, with another on the way. Being still fairly new to the business, the two are still learning the nuances of handling the livestock.

“That’s one of the most rewarding things, that you learn something new every day,” Ruth said.

Ruth and Chris also sell clothing and other items made from alpaca-fur on their business website, alpacasofchambana.com.

Still getting settled to their new home, the couple is hoping to see lots of new faces during the upcoming open house, Ruth said.

“It will be a great, fun, family-activity, and a great chance to get up and close with the animals,” Ruth said.

Berrien County

CFCN hosting flu, COVID-19 vaccine clinic

Business

Under the Harvest Moon Festival to offer children’s activities

News

Niles man, 13-year-old passenger killed in Sodus Township crash

Cass County

PHOTO STORY: Old Rugged Cross Church hosts church, museum dedication

Dowagiac

Dowagiac Elks hosting annual Guys and Dolls Golf Outing

News

New general surgeon seeing patients in Niles

Edwardsburg

Michigan Traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall stops in Edwardsburg

Edwardsburg

PHOTO STORY: Edwardsburg Area Chamber of Commerce hosts fall festival

News

Niles man sentenced to probation for drunk driving

News

PHOTO STORY: Uptown Fright Fest a success

News

PHOTO STORY: Niles student crowned Miss Apple Festival 2021

News

Three injured in Howard Township crash

Dowagiac

Medical event causes car to crash into Dowagiac Burger King

Cass County

Cassopolis man sent to prison on drug charges

Dowagiac

SMC recognized for turning students into citizens

Dowagiac

ETS program awarded grant from Department of Education

Cass County

Dowagiac man who broke elementary school windows sentenced to probation

Dowagiac

Changes to retirement benefits cause for concern among Cass County employees

News

Niles first ward residents ask for an end to gun violence in their community

Buchanan

Buchanan Area Senior Center raising funds to convert porch into sunroom

Cass County

Man arrested on drug charges in Mason Township

Cass County

Cass County Commissioners approve grant for Dowagiac River restoration

Business

Lyons Industries donates 12 thermal imaging cameras to Indian Lake Volunteer Fire Department

Cass County

Niles man seriously injured in motorcycle crash