Radio Field Trip: Feeding Alpacas in Northwood
For our Radio Field Trips series we like to introduce you to New Hampshire places, people… and sometimes animals too. This week, we’re visiting some alpacas.
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(Editor's note: we highly recommend listening to this story.)
Dawn Tonkin is introducing me to the herd at her farm in Northwood.
It’s an overcast day, and there’s a bit of leftover snow on the ground. The alpacas’ shaggy fiber has grown out over the winter months.
We enter the pen where a dozen or so alpacas are kept. They immediately surround us happy to see me carrying a bucket. They don’t want to wait for us to distribute the grain.
Dawn has actually always dreamed of having alpacas. She used to attend farm tours where she’d sometimes see the animals.
“I used to go every year and think boy, I wish I had an alpaca,” Dawn says.
She says in 2010, when she was getting close to approaching 50, she had the epiphany that life is short.
That’s when Dawn started Alpaca-Brats Farm. Because yes, sometimes they can be a bit bratty. But she says they are some of the easiest farm animals to keep.
Dawn feeds and cares for the animals mostly on her own. In the spring, she’ll shear the alpacas and collect their fiber. Then she’ll make and sell an assortment of fiber products, including yarn and knits.
Dawn also has a full time job. She works out of Concord’s mental health court as a licensed drug and alcohol counselor.
“This is kind of my way to get away from what it often times very hard, especially today with the opioid epidemic and so many individuals struggling with mental illness,” Dawn says.
In her 25-year career, she says she’s only ever lost clients in the past five years.
"And in the last 3 years, I’ve lost 5 clients, and it takes a toll.”
But the alpacas do serve as a stress reliever after a long day. She’s had them for about 8 years now, and the animals still find ways to surprise her.
“I'll come home and I'll come out on the deck, and I'll say come on girls, and it's so majestic to see them running,” Dawn says.
She’s had alpacas for about 8 years now, and the animals still find ways to surprise her.
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