Of fleece and friends
CALLICOON — Maria Bravo ended
up in Callicoon pretty much accidentally.
“My mother says we are here because
of destiny,” said Bravo’s daughter, Alejandra, as
she recounted the tale.
Seven years ago, Bravo had purchased
300 alpacas and planned to start a farm in Oregon.
Those animals arrived at the U.S. quarantine facility
at Stewart International Airport in Newburgh, as is
standard procedure when livestock is imported. After
the quarantine period had ended and the animals had
been given a clean bill of health, a problem came
up. There was no way to get the animals out of the
“It was a bad winter,” Alejandra said.
“The trucks [from Oregon] that were coming to pick
up the alpacas made it as far as Chicago and they
had to turn back.”
This is the point where destiny stepped
Needing somewhere to board her new
herd, at least until the winter was over, Bravo was
lucky enough to find a friend in Ed Boyd, owner of
the Double E Alpaca Farm in the Town of Bethel. That
planned few-week stay turned into a few months, then
into a full year.
During that time, Boyd and Bravo put
together an event to show off their animals, sell
some products and get others more familiar with the
little-known animal. The event was a success, but
the best part of it came right at the end.
“The last customer,” Alejandra said,
“had come to buy a dress for his wife… he ended up
buying 20 alpacas.” He added those alpacas to the
list of livestock he had at his ranch in Callicoon.
A few years ago, when he and his wife decided to leave
the area, Bravo purchased the ranch property and moved
her herd there. Since then, her business has only
Alpacas are generally considered some
of the most “user-friendly” animals that
people can own. They are comparatively low maintenance
(some say they are less troublesome to maintain than
dogs), do not require vast grazing fields (an average
of about one acre per five animals) and very personable
(alpacas love children as much as children love alpacas).
The fleece produced and collected annually
can be softer than cashmere or silk and warmer than
wool. It holds dye very well, but dying isn’t
usually necessary since alpaca fleece naturally comes
in about 22 different colors. “They are one
of the only animals,” said Alejandra, “that
produce jet black [fleece].”
Quintessence, in addition to its Callicoon
operation, has ranches in seven countries. Besides
the outlet attached to the Callicoon ranch, it has
shops selling alpaca products in Jeffersonville and
on Madison and Lexington Avenues in New York City.
It’s getting ready to begin exporting to Spain,
a new market for the company.
The ranch is open for sales, of both
animals and products, regularly from about 9:00 a.m.
to 6:00 or 7:00 p.m. It’s also where the family
lives, so special appointments are no problem. “It’s
easy for us,” said Alejandra. “We just
open the door and let people in.”
To contact Quintessence Alpaca International,
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