Most everyone that has raised alpacas for any considerable length of time has an origin story of sorts. Ours began with Jennifer’s senior year environmental engineering project in Ecuador for Worcester Polytechnic Institute, where the mere idea — said mostly as a joke — of “a couple of llamas for the backyard one day” was first born. That was followed by her cajoling her somewhat recalcitrant boyfriend into going to the Killington Sheep & Wool Festival, in the the fall of 1994 just months after we had moved back home to VT – ostensibly to see some llamas. As it turned out, it was there, on a cool but sunny October day that we would in fact come face to face with an alpaca for the first time. Needless to say, it has been quite a ride ever since. The 20 year history of our farm is to a great degree the history of our family as we have grown and evolved in the years since Jennifer and I first signed a contract for a piece of land in Weathersfield, VT in December of 1995. That land, whose main selling points were, A. a house ready to move into, and B. some 10 to 15 acres of open fields, was purchased specifically for the development of an alpaca breeding operation. Admittedly, at that time the talk was that if one day we totally lost our minds (ha!), we might come to have a maximum of 30 animals. Um, yeah.
Less than 2 years later, that property would officially be anointed Cas-Cad-Nac Farm with the construction of the Main Barn in the spring
and summer of 1997 — that’s it in its earliest form in the CCNF Chronicles’ banner photo above — and the delivery of the first members of our nascent foundation herd later that same year. I’m not sure whether it really is or not but 20 years at least feels like quite a long time. I’ve been thinking for a while now in the run-up to January and the farm’s 20th anniversary year, how the list of things that I’ve actually “done” for 20 years or more is a fairly sparse one. I have been my parent’s son and my sister’s sibling for 45+ years, likewise a nephew and a cousin. The crazy Austrian I describe to the outside world as my Godfather, who is also a beloved surrogate grandfather to our boys, has been in my life — at times to his chagrin — since I was about 10 years of age, so I’ve been his “Godson” for 35 years or so. The amazing woman that I have been lucky enough to spend my adult life with and with whom I have shared this beautiful little conspiracy that came to be called CCNF, has tolerated me for 27 years in all, almost 22 of them as my spouse (needless to say, Jen and I were relative babies when we first got together). My dear friend, David McCarthy — not an alpaca person, so most of you reading this wouldn’t know him — has put up with my ups, downs, and the ranting that have accompanied them all, since we were both just 15 (Maxy’s age now, yikes!). And though it has of course been the greatest privileged of my existence on this earth to have been both a father and an uncle, even Sammy and his eldest 1st cousin, Lilah, are still just shy of their 19th birthdays, so that just misses this list.
It is worth noting that had you told a 20 year old Ian Lutz that he would spend 20 of the next 25 years as an alpaca breeder my first, most obvious, flippant, and crudely phrased question (yours truly has always suffered from perpetual potty mouth) would have undoubtedly been, “what the f#ck is an alpaca?” Yeah, funny the paths we find ourselves journeying on. Yet having first been exposed to the very concept of the US alpaca industry (and if you feel compelled to chuckle at the rather liberal use of that term, I feel you) in that fall of ’94, and having since born witness to much of its glory, grace, successes, failures, excesses, bubbles, crashes, victories, and defeats, etc…knowing everything we know NOW, and holding oh so dear the experiences we have had and the friendships that we have built in our time with our farm and animals, we would absolutely do it all over again, the good and the bad: for the former has more than made up for the latter. Perhaps we would do it all with our eyes a bit more open, but likewise with open hearts in full knowledge that what we have built here and what it has meant to us and our little family happily hunkered down on the slope of Mt. Ascutney, has had an intrinsic value that is impossible to ever even truly quantify. So above all, we just feel extremely lucky to be standing where we are after such a passage of time. Thanks to all of our friends and extended family members — one of whom we sadly lost last fall — who stood with us over the past two decades as we embarked on what at times has felt like a bit of a Quixotic adventure. We certainly could never have accomplished everything we have without your love and untiring support. We can never say for sure what the future holds but as we get ready to send the first of our human babies off to college later this year (Sam will be studying to become a commercial pilot in Florida), we are excited to find out what lies on the road ahead, confident that we are ready for its many twists and turns, as well as the vistas that it will undoubtedly provide. With deep gratitude for the past 20 years and hope for the years to come, Cas-Cad-Nac Farm and the Lutz family press on…
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