That’s the theme for the Alpaca Fiber Symposium, which will be held April 3, 4 and 5 at Gaston College Textile Center in Belmont, North Carolina.
I love the theme for this Symposium as it expresses how far we have come with the focus on the fiber side of the alpaca industry. When the alpaca industry was first established in the US the focus was definitely on breeding stock with little to no attention being given to the fiber side of the industry. At that time alpaca breeders were interested in growing and improving the national herd.
Over the years we have witnessed the gradual change of focus within the alpaca industry. The focus on improving and development of the national herd is still there, but now as the numbers of both alpaca breeders and alpacas in the US swells more attention has been given to the fiber side of the industry, and quite rightly so.
We are often asked by people researching the alpaca industry if it is going to follow the direction of the llama, emu and ostrich industries, all of which eventually collapsed causing the pricing of llama, emu and ostrich to bottom out.
My answer to that question is that the alpaca industry has studied what happened in the llama, emu and ostrich industries, learned from their mistakes and taken steps to ensure that the alpaca industry does not follow suit. One of the biggest steps that has been taken is the development of the alpaca fiber industry.
In any livestock business you have to have a purpose and an end product to market and sell. While alpacas themselves could be considered an end product, the real end product of the alpaca industry lies in the beautiful fleece our alpacas produce year after year.
It’s not been an easy path, there have been mistakes along the way, no doubt there will be more mistakes in the future, but gradually the alpaca industry has put more attention on the fiber side of the business, developing product, improving processing techniques and educating consumers in the wonders of alpaca products and the availability of alpaca products made from North American alpaca fiber.
The Alpaca Fiber Symposium has a variety presenters including the Alpaca Owners and Breeders Association (AOBA), The Alpaca Fiber Cooperative of North American (AFCNA), The Alpaca Blanket Project, North American Alpaca Fiber Producers (NAAFP) and more. Keynote speakers will be Dean Godfrey of North Carolina University’s College of Textiles and John Anderson, the Director of the Textile Center at Gaston College, Belmont, North Carolina.
To me this is an exciting time in the world of alpacas, there are many things going on behind the scenes to develop and promote North American alpaca fiber and the products that can be made from alpaca fiber. Where once it was said that there was not enough alpaca fiber in the US to run commercial mills, we now have commercial mills producing runs of product made of alpaca fiber and that, to me, is a significant step for the alpaca fiber industry.
Many of the people involved in this development have devoted numerous hours of their time to ensure the future success of the alpaca fiber industry, a subject that they are passionate about. Several of those “alpaca fiber pioneers” will be at or represented at the Alpaca Fiber Symposium where they will get the chance to share news of their efforts with attendees.
The Alpaca Fiber Symposium promises to be an interesting event, not only for alpaca breeders new and old but also for those contemplating purchasing alpacas who want a more in depth explanation of the history of the development of the alpaca fiber industry and where the future lies for the alpaca fiber industry.