SHEPHERDSVILLE, Ky. — It might surprise you to learn there are over 200 Alpaca farms across Kentucky.
It might not be the first product you think of when it comes to Kentucky farming”but Kentucky’s commissioner of agriculture signed a proclamation naming July, “Alpaca Fleece and Fiber Month.”
It’s hard to put this lightly, but Alpaca wool is shockingly soft. It’s an industry Eddie and Gale Etherton have been knee deep in since 2004. On a warm morning in July, Eddie Etheron showed Spectrum News 1 around his Alpaca farm in Shepherdsville.
“Ours are pretty calm because we spend a lot of time with them,” Etheron explains.
Since 2004, the husband and wife enterprise has transformed their rural Shepherdsville homestead into The Shepherd’s Criations Alpaca Farm, raising the animals primarily for their very soft wool.
The fibers they collect from their herd are sent to an Alpaca co-op and combined with the Alpaca wool from other Kentucky growers to produce 100% Alpaca products.
“The retail part of the business is pretty strong. We do really well with that,” Eddie Etherton tells Spectrum News 1.
“The breeding part of the industry is down. It has been down since 2008,” Etherton adds. And 2008 is about the time the Ethertons shifted from strictly breeding to harvesting the wool for retail products.
Socks make up the lion’s share of products made with the Etherton’s fiber. However, Eddie Etherton hand makes his own line of Alpaca scarves.
“Socks is the big thing. We sell a lot of Alpaca socks,” Etherton says.
Why socks? The Ethertons say there’s no comparison to cotton or sheep’s wool when it comes to the softness of Alpaca fibers.
“Alpaca is warmer than wool but soft as cashmere,” Gale Etherton boasts.
The Ethertons manage their farm while both working other jobs and say if you’ve never handled the fiber, you’ll often find Kentucky made Alpaca products at your local craft fair. Each year, The Ethertons frequent craft fairs and markets in Bowling Green, Louisville and other parts of the state.