Angie Rish with Bethany Farm AlpacasApr 05, 2021 09:01AM ● By Story by Cindy Reid | Photos by Tonya Perry
Angie Rish nourished a dream for 20 years, and today she is actually living the life she dreamed about for so long.
“It’s definitely unique, because my twenty year dream was to have my own alpaca farm,” says Angie. “I fell in love with alpacas when they were on television commercials years ago and I spent all this time doing my research and learning everything I could about them in preparation for the day I would have my own herd.”
Originally from Forsyth, Georgia, Angie has been in the Savannah area since 1998, and in Effingham since 2001. She raised five children while working at Effingham Hospital as an ultrasound technician, all the while dreaming about having a small farm of her own.
“Three years ago, I sold the family home, bought a small eight acre farm in Springfield, and moved there with two of my children who were still in high school,” she says. “I bought the property in 2017 and added the alpaca herd in March 2020. I still work at Effingham Hospital as an ultrasound technician, and I feel very blessed to be able to work there two days a week and to also have the farm.”
Angie says the name of the farm is no accident. “Being a Christian, the name Bethany had real meaning for me. Bethany was a small village known for many things in the Bible, such as being the place where Jesus stayed on his way to Jerusalem to get crucified, home of his friends Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, and even where he raised Lazarus from the dead. Although the scene of this small town of Bethany may seem insignificant, it is ultimately where Jesus left Earth and where he will return.”
“I was looking at farms to buy and the perfect farm was located on Bethany Road. I feel this is not a coincidence—so of course I named it Bethany Farm!”
Alpacas at Bethany Farm
Part of Angie’s research included learning from the wider community of experienced alpaca owners. Two farms in particular were her “alpaca mentors”—Apple Mountain Alpacas in Clarksville, GA, and Alpaca Ranch at Cobb Creek Cabins in Murphy, NC. “They were both instrumental in helping me set up the farm and my herd was purchased from their stock of alpacas,” says Angie, “It’s a wonderful community of alpaca people and these folks in particular have been extremely helpful.”
There are currently eight alpacas at Bethany Farm, five girls and three males. “Each alpaca is unique,” says Angie. “The females are Maddie, Abby, Niqua, Star, Dulci, and the males are Dixson, Livewire and Bandit. The farm also includes angora goats and mini horses. The goats are sheared annually for their mohair fiber and the horses are being trained to pull carts.
“All the animals have uses and jobs!”
Alpaca Fun Facts
Alpacas are in camelids, from the camel family, and were originally imported to the USA from Peru. For most owners, raising alpacas is primarily a fiber business. They are very quiet, docile animals that generally make only a pleasant humming sound as a means of communication. They do occasionally spit, but only to each other—not people—when they are in distress, fearful, or want to show dominance.
They have a three-chambered stomach, like goats and sheep, and they chew their cud. Alpacas like treats such as apples and carrots, but the bulk of their diet is hay and grain.
Alpacas are social herd animals that live in family groups, and when one goes into the pasture the others will inevitably follow.
They are not pets, but Angie says, “Out of my herd, the little guy Dixson who was born here has a very sweet personality, so he is the closest to a pet.”
Angie says her alpacas are temperamentally pleasant and don’t bite or butt. “They only have lower teeth so they actually can’t bite people,” she says, “and they move pretty gracefully so they won’t run you—or small children—over.”
Baby alpacas are called “cria” and normally weigh between 15 and 19 pounds. They are usually standing and nursing within 90 minutes of birth.
Angie says alpacas are very smart animals and are fairly easy to train. “It is best to start training them when they are young so that they will accept a halter and learn to follow on a lead.”
“They are not llamas! Alpacas are part of the camel family and are smaller than llamas. Llamas are primarily used for packing or for guarding herds of sheep or alpacas, whereas alpacas are primarily raised for their fleece.”
As part of the farm’s educational component, Angie created an “alpaca trail’ with informational signs. “I put up little signs on our alpaca trail, such as a baby is called a cria, alpacas are part of the camel family, and they are not llamas!”
Alpacas are typically sheared once or twice a year and each shearing produces approximately 5 to 10 pounds of fiber per alpaca. Alpaca wool is prized for its softness and resiliency. The fleece doesn’t contain lanolin (unlike sheep’s wool) and is considered easy to handle. Many hand spinners, knitters, weavers, and textile artists prefer the alpaca fleece, which has 16 official colors, many of which can be custom dyed in a variety of colors.
Bethany Farm shears their herd twice a year—spring and fall—and the fleece is sent out for processing.
“Nicole Taylor at Spirit Fiber Works processes the fleece, which is spun into functional fiber that I then use for crafts and products that are for sale seasonally at the farm,” says Angie.
Textile arts was something new for Angie after obtaining her alpaca herd. She says, “I never really created any crafts or artwork, but I caught on to the uses of alpaca fiber and found I really like creating fiber arts.”
Angie has currently has dryer balls, bird nesting balls, socks, needle and wet felting items and kits for sale with plans to have crocheted items for sale in the near future.
New in 2021, Farm Tours are now held on the first Saturday of every month from 2:00 - 4:00pm. You can book tours online, by emailing or by calling.
Angie says, “We can also arrange Field Trips for groups outside of the Saturday tours, just give me a call or send an email and I will be happy to discuss it with you. I love field trips and do many for homeschooled kids. I have also hosted tours for autistic children, which have gone really well. I love my alpacas and I love seeing other people enjoy them!”
She will also be hosting “Fun with Felt”—fiber art classes using alpaca fiber with dates to be announced. Check the website for updates.
The first Fall Farm Fun Day was held in Oct 2020 and the second annual Fall Farm Fun Day is scheduled for October 16 and 17, 2021. Visitors can pet and feed the alpacas, horses, goats, and chickens. There will also be mini horse cart rides, hayrides, picture props and games. Food will be available on site and the farm store will be open.
“The first Farm Fun Day was really great,” says Angie, “and we will be even better this year. So bring the family and enjoy!”
A Dream Achieved
After 20 years of planning, Angie is thoroughly enjoying her new life on the farm with her alpaca herd. When asked what she enjoys the most she answers, “It’s not a way to get rich quick! I just enjoy it all. I grew up in Forsyth, Georgia, not on a farm but my friends had farms, so I took a liking to farm life at a young age. I would rather be with animals anywhere; in fact, you couldn’t pay me a million dollars to live in a city. I consider myself to be a ‘boots on’ country girl! I love my animals and the farm life, but I am also a big people person, so I like to share them. It’s truly the best part of me.”
711 Bethany Road Springfield, GA 31329