Looking for a fun and unique activity for your kids this summer? Visit an alpaca farm. Dozens of alpaca ranches dot the Missouri and Kansas countryside.
I visited the Whirlwind Ranch in Lebanon, MO. Owners Liz and Linda Mitchko offer visitors an up-close-and-personal look at life on an alpaca ranch. At any given time, the ranch is home to more than 100 Huacaya alpacas.
Spread across an Ozarks mountain top, the ranch catches an almost constant breeze to cool the summer days. The alpacas romp, play and eat in the green fields.
Learn about the different breeds, their South American roots, their habits and their methods of communication.
After the Mitchkos introduce you to the alpacas, they invite you to visit their store and learn about the virtues of alpaca wool. Find out about the process from shearing the animals to making socks, hats, sweaters and many more products.
Alpaca wool is sought after because of its ability to wick moisture in the summer and create warmth in the winter. It is the most versatile of wools and is in demand for quality products.
Birds love to use alpaca wool to feather their nests. The Mitchkos make balls of wool to hang out for the birds to use.
Just about an hour east of Springfield, the ranch is open to visits by individuals and groups by appointment. For more information, visit www.whirlwindranch.com or call 417.533.5280.