Golden Touch Alpaca Farm

  (Westport, Massachusetts)
A glimpse into everyday life at our Alpaca farm
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First Hummingbird siting of 2009!

Our first Hummingbirds of the season were spotted this morning! They are right on schedule. Last year they arrived on April 30th, and the year before that April 27th.

 

Check out this amazingly small Hummingbird Nest we found at the end of 2007. We promise to keep  you all posted with new HD Videos of our Hummers feeding! 

 
 

New HD Video: Lazy Spring Afternoon with the Alpacas

It was a gorgeous day out and the Girls and their cria were enjoying having a nice relaxing afternoon. We got some decent shots and figured it would be a good time to upload them as we haven't posted a new video in a few months.

 

Enjoy! More Videos to come!

Note: If video studders on playback, hit Pause and let the video buffer for  a while or try deactiving HD in the Top Right Corner.

 

 

 

 


Lazy Spring Afternoon from goldentouchfarm on Vimeo.

Looking for some more Agriculture/Food/Work Related Ted Talks?

Everyone seems to love when we post Ted Talks so I put together a short list of other Talks I think you all will be interested in.

If you happen to stumble across any that you think should be added to this list by all means let me know and I will include it!

 

Dennis vanEngelsdorp: Where have the bees gone? 

http://www.ted.com/talks/view/id/416

Dan Barber: A surprising parable of foie gras 

 http://www.ted.com/talks/view/id/406

Michael Pollan: The omnivore's next dilemma 

http://www.ted.com/talks/view/id/214

Mark Bittman: What's wrong with what we eat

http://www.ted.com/talks/view/id/263

Ann Cooper: Reinventing School Lunch

http://www.ted.com/talks/view/id/348 

 

 

 

 



 

Video: Ted Talks: Mike Row Celebrates Work - All Kinds of Work!

I have been loving these Ted Talk Videos lately - There are so many interesting people out there doing amazing things and it is great to be able to get a glimpse into their insight. This one in particular hits home, as it is about the current "War on Work" waging in the United States. Mike Rowe does an amazing job in this talk - It runs about 20 minutes long so get a cup of coffee and check it out - You won't be disappointed! 

 

Mike Rowe, the host of "Dirty Jobs," tells some compelling (and horrifying) real-life job stories. Listen for his insights and observations about the nature of hard work, and how it’s been unjustifiably degraded in society today.

 

 

 

 
 

10 Entrepreneurial Concepts to Live By

While browsing the Internet this morning I stumbled across a great list that really rings true in our neck of the woods. Over the years as we have ventured into different agricultural businesses and industries, the same general ideas and attitudes are needed to succeed. I agree with all of these points so I figured it would be a great resource to pass along. 

10 Entrepreneurial Concepts to Live By
by Andrew Baron via dembot.com

1. Always work with people who are better than you. You can only do a few things really well. One of them should be understanding your weaknesses and looking for the best possible help to fill the gaps. Seek help to manage MOST of everything else it takes to run a successful business. Hire people who will do a better job than you.

2. Treat everyone with the highest regards and pay the people who work for you greater than their value. While most people do not want to be leaders, most people want to feel good about themselves and be fulfilled. If people are paid better than normal, have good benefits and get a lot of appraisal and bonuses, they will be happier in life and in return will likely be more productive too. The smallest gestures, even for a poor company such as adding a bit more onto a pay check (giving surprise bonuses), paying for a cab - paying for lunch, all go a really long way. The greatest implementation of value for people is to have positions that allow for infinite growth. Nobody that works for you should ever have a fixed ceiling of opportunity. Consider cutting back on material expenses and pay more for people. Aspire for everyone to have a greater life-style. No matter how important your business is, this is life we are talking about and it’s short. While being caught up with speed towards the future, remember others who live for the day.

3. Do everything right and fair. Make sure that you are always honorable, especially with yourself. Live up to your oral agreements. When it comes to operating your business, make sure and set it up correctly - pay every cent of tax that you legally owe. As long as you take the extra effort to do things right, you will eliminate a huge amount of stress. Even knowing yourself that you are keeping everything in order will make you feel better about yourself on a day-to-day basis. The people that work for you will also take you more seriously and also feel better themselves.

4. Learn to love consequence and happenstance. Things will happen all the time that will throw off your plans. Turn the stress around and into a challenge. Use the opportunity to think of new opportunities. Perhaps there are many new paths to take that you would like even more. Consequence is the stuff that artists dream of; It’s what creates new technologies and drives innovation.

5. Be transparent. This is almost cliche now, though this is why it is important and should not be missed: Without disregard for being humble, the more you reveal, the more people will understand where you are coming from. It’s not about blurting out some statement suddenly. It takes time to show yourself, who you really are. This motto applies to most aspects of life and business. The idea behind transparency is much more of a human personality trait. It’s for you yourself and the people that you care about; It’s for the audience that want to know when they ask; It gets to be that you no longer even think of this idea, it just becomes a part of your lifestyle. When you are fair, transparency will occur naturally because you will be proud and secure to reveal your true thinking.

6. Create a comfortable environment. A girl friend once told me about a miserable phase she went though when she and one of her girl friends were living in a basement with no windows, lots of dogs, mildew, low ceilings, old carpet, low lighting, etc. It sounded dreary to say the least. She wasn’t aware of the concept of space enough to understand that it was drastically effecting her mood. When she moved into a more comfortable apartment that was full of light and had higher ceilings, she regained her spirit. Having a great work environment is just the same. And websites are like spaces too. When you create your physical space or your space online, consider making it comfortable as possible.

7. Listen to your audience, friends and advisors. The more you can get feedback and audience participation, the more you will understand the positive and negative effects of your efforts. The more you understand the effects you are having, the more you can understand what to do in the future. If you trust yourself to filter the ideas and information that others give you, be quiet and listen more often. Allow the audience/journalists/experts in your field to describe your activity for you.

8. Have spirit and passion for what you do!

9. Time is of the essence. It starts with the age-old model of speed that can be applied to everything in life. In a war, for instance, the side that obtains the information first about where the other side is will have the advantage; The investor who knows the news first will have the stock advantage. The technologist who creates the first this-or-that will have that advantage to begin with. Speed=Potential. If you have something new, take action before it becomes old.

10. Stay in control by giving control away. The more you give up control to others, the happier everyone will be. Not only will the people who work for you be happier, it will allow you more time to focus on the things you do best.

Getting the Garden Ready

Over the weekend we spent some time getting our Vegetable and Herb garden ready for the quickly approaching growing season. The garden is roughly 45ft x 20ft, with a total area of 800 sq ft usable planting area (minusing the edging and pathways). This will be our 3rd year keeping a fairly decent sized garden, considering it is more a hobby for us than anything else and we are really excited about it.

Hopefully in the next 4 weeks we will be able to start transplanting some hardy seedlings, we will certainly keep you all posted on our little side project!

A friend of ours pointed out that there are some wonderful videos on YouTube that help explain in plain english the most important aspects of gardening, here is a great example:

 

Basic Gardening: How and Why you should all Compost - You can find a ton more videos here - http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=gardening&search=tag

 

 
 

Top 10 Reasons Why You want to buy Local Foods

I was stumbling around on Twitter this morning and found this great List written by Robin Shreeves

 via http://southjerseylocavore.blogspot.com/

10 reasons why you want to buy local foods

Buying local food benefits both you and your community. When you buy local food you
  1. Reduce your food miles. The fewer miles your food has to travel, the less environmental damage occurs.
  2. Eat fresher food. When you buy at farmers markets and farm stands, the food is usually picked that day or the day before. When you buy local food at the grocery store, it's still fresher than the food that's been shipped hundreds of miles.
  3. Eat better tasting food. Ever wonder why the strawberries you get from the local farm taste so much sweeter than the ones you buy in the middle of winter at the grocery store? To get strawberries to your store in the middle of winter (unless you live in a climate where they grow all year long), they are picked before they are ripe and force ripened along the trip to your store. It makes a big difference in the taste.
  4. Eat more nutritious food. Food loses its nutrients as it sits around waiting to be shipped and then on the long trip to your store. Fresher food not only tastes better, it is better.
  5. Financially support local farmers. According tosustainabletable.org, when you buy food in a grocery store, about 3.5 cents of each dollar you spend makes it to the farmer. When you buy directly from the farmer, 80-90 cents of each dollar you spend makes it in the farmers pocket.
  6. Preserve open spaces. In the South Jersey region, when a farm closes and the land is sold, it invariably becomes a cookie cutter development or worse, the parking lot for a big box store. I can imagine that's the same all over the place. By putting money into the farmers' pockets, you're helping to keep the farm running.
  7. Help the environment. When farmland is turned into a suburban development or a parking lot, lots pollution occurs, lots of critters lose their homes and lots of traffic starts pouring in. Open farmland is good for the environment.
  8. Preserve genetic diversity. There are hundreds of tomato varieties out there, but you're grocery store only carries a handful of them. Go to the local farmers market, and you'll find dozens of varieties. Why? Some tomatoes "travel" better than others. Some varieties of tomatoes just can't survive the difficult trip over hundreds of miles. Because of this, large scale farms only grow a few varieties. Local farms can grow the less hardy varieties because they don't have to travel far to get to you. If the local farms go away, we could lose genetic diversity in crops.
  9. Give animals a better life. Local food isn't limited to fruits and vegetables. Most small farms that raise animals for meat treat their animals more humanely. They feed them the food that is natural for them to eat and give them room to roam around. When you buy locally raised meat, you help to support this type of meat production instead of the cruel factory farms.
  10. Get inspired. Once you get a taste for local foods, chances are you'll want to grow a little of your own in a container garden or a full fledged garden. Or, you'll look at that butternut squash on the table at the farmers market and say, "hmmmm. I've never made butternut squash before, but I think I'll give it a try." You'll try things you've never tried before.

 

 
 

The Hummingbirds are Here!

 

Map via http://www.hummingbirds.net/map.html


Time to get those hummingbird feeders out! This is by far our favorite time of year around the farm, as you might have noticed by all the HD Hummingbird videos we shoot throughout the year. This year should be even better, as we are setting up special feeders that will allow us to mount our cameras inches away from the feeder, expect some extreme close up shots this summer!

 


Remembering the Sun from goldentouchfarm on Vimeo.
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U.S. Alpaca Fiber Industry - Ready to Pounce

Both Chris and I also run the New England Alpaca Fiber Pool - a service provider for alpaca farms across the United States to gain access to commercial sized manufacturers and maximize the value of their raw fiber by turning it into finished products for re-sale. We have been a part of the business for 7 years and officially took over 5 years ago.

Each month we post a NEAFP Note, our Newsletter, with U.S. Alpaca Industry news, specials, as well as other information and resources to help Alpaca Farms succeed.

This past month we posted a positive article about the current state of the U.S. Alpaca Fiber Industry in our current economic situaion and I wanted to pass it along to Localharvest as I believe a lot of the sentiment expressed in the article holds true for many of the Farms and Businesses in our industry.

 Here is the Article in it's entirety, provided by www.NEAFP.com:

 U.S. Alpaca Industry - Ready to Pounce

by Sean Riley - New England Alpaca Fiber Pool

 

With the current economy turned upside down, we have noticed a wave of hysteria throughout the Alpaca Industry with many breeders asking other peers in the industry how they are weathering the storm? Many are focusing on the negative news we read each day, and worrying themselves into believing that things will never get better, that this is the beginning of the end.

I understand how people can feel this way, and get their hopes down about the future but I challenge you all to focus in on the positive aspects of the current economic dilemma the world finds itself in. Sure there is a lot of uncertainty out there, but history shows that people under great pressure have great ideas, and some of the world's biggest and strongest brands were born in historic economic downturns. IBM, General Electric, Proctor and Gamble, and FedEx are all great examples of companies who were started in economic downturns and were able to not only weather the storm, but become staples in our country and across the world to this day.

While other major companies were focusing on how bad things were in their respective industries, these companies were busy dreaming up new products and solving the problems of tomorrow, which proved to be exactly what the American People were looking for and that is how they succeeded in such dire times.

The "bubble" isn't bursting, it is simply changing shape and direction and the businesses/farms that recognize this shift the fastest and execute on it are the ones that will be the most successful. I'd argue that because of this current economic situation, the U.S. Alpaca Fiber Industry is poised for tremendous growth, and here's why:

  • As more and more consumers realize the true power they have in their purchasing habits, the demand for clothing and accessories made from Natural Fibers in the United States will continue to grow. Rob Long, an alpaca owner from Missouri was recently quoted as saying that "Alpaca is Nature's Goretex." and we couldn't agree more. There are not many natural fibers available today that can go toe to toe with Alpaca, and as brand awareness for U.S. Alpaca grows, we will be busy keeping up with the demand rather than debating about a bubble.
  • Natural Resources and Labor Costs were never factored into a manufacturer's accounting balance sheet, and because of this they weren't properly figured in to the equation when figuring out a product's true cost. This caused Labor and Natural Resources across the globe to be taken advantage of. The abundance of Cheap Oil fueled clothing manufacturers to turn to synthetics, because they were cheaper and easier to produce. Now that more and more consumers are becoming conscious of the back story behind the products they purchase, more are looking for Guilt Free products that have positive stories behind them, and would rather support local businesses and purchase Made in America than a faceless corporation who exploits people and resources across the globe.
  • With current technologies, it has never been easier or cheaper to run your own grass roots marketing campaign and get your animals, brand, back story and products to the general public. People want to hear about how you fell in love with these animals and their fleece and others want to know who they are supporting when they buy from you. Small farms no longer have to depend on large organizations to help build awareness and demand for their animals and products. Blogs, Online Video, and Community Networking will go a lot further for your farm than generic commercials and magazine ads and all that is needed to succeed with these mediums is passion about what you do.

Every economy, every industry, every business will have it's Ups and Downs but instead of getting caught up in the day to day negatives, I challenge you to focus on the positive, and the massive potential that will arise in this economic shift back to the basics. When the dust settles, and the general consumer's mentality has shifted, how will you be poised to meet these new demands and succeed? The fact is, we can't change the events that are happening today, but we can certainly shape the events of tomorrow so put your energy and your resources towards making your own luck.

 

If you would like to catch up on previous NEAFP Notes or sign up to become a member of our mailing list, head to: http://www.neafp.com/neafpnotes2.php 

 
 

Video: How to Make Tea with Loose Herbs!

 

I stumbled across this video recently and I think it is wonderful! Over the last years our kids have turned us onto making tea with loose herbs and we will never go back to buying bagged tea again. It is cheaper, better tasting, and there are a ton of wonderful resources out there, especially on this site, to find great local fresh herbs.

 

Here is a video produced by Mountain Rose Herbs that will walk you through the basics of making your own Loose Herb Tea!

 

 

 
 

HR 875 - The Death of Farmers Markets, CSAs and Local Food

From the Nourished Kitchen:

 HR 875, also known as the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009, was introduced by Rosa Delauro - a democratic party member of the United States House of Representatives from Connecticut - in February of 2009.  The title of HR 875, The Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009, sounds innocuous enough - even comforting, but its implications yield a much, much different story.

HR 875 as it is written today, could very well mean the end of the vibrant and growing local foods movement.  Yes - if it passes - it could herald the death of farmers markets, most CSAs, farmstands and even small family-run farms altogether.

Ostensibly, HR 875 or the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009 would bring greater accountability to our imperiled food system.  Indeed, with salmonella-infected peanuts and spinach laced with e-coli, who isn’t crying out for improvements in food safety?

However, HR 875 fails miserably in promoting food safety.  Rather, than promoting true accountability and proper farming techniques that minimize the risk of introducing pathogens into the food supply, it simply will create greater barriers for our already struggling small farms and farmers markets.

HR 875 mandates that anyone who produces food of any kind - meat, milk, fruit, vegetables et cetera -  and transports that food for sale be subject to warrantless government inspections of their farms and food production records.  These random inspections can be conducted at the whim of federal agents without regard to farmers rights or property rights.  Further, the law would allow federal agents to confiscate records, product as they see fit as part of the inspection process.

Agents could also implement draconian restrictions regarding how farm animals can be fed, how fields can be managed and the end result of these restrictions could mean the end of organic, biodynamic and sustinable agriculture practices as these practices are deemed “unsafe.”  Farmers refusing to comply would be subject to penalties.

 

Read the Rest here - http://nourishedkitchen.com/fight-hr-875-food-safety-modernization-act-of-2009/

 

Contact your Representative Today regarding this bill - http://www.house.gov/writerep/ 

Burrrr! Just when you thought Spring was Here

We were spoiled with a beautiful weekend and silly us, we expected it to stay like that! For a second there, I forgot we live in New England. As the saying goes, "If you don't like the Weather, just wait a minute." Unfortunately that holds true the other way around, if you are enjoying the Weather, know that it can vanish in just a minute.

After looking at the U.S. forecast it looks like a lot of you are getting Rain Today, whenever it is gloomy around here I always watch some of our Farm Videos from Summer to cheer me up - here is a small collection of our Hummingbird Videos we shot last year - can't wait until they come back!

 

Enjoy!

 

 

 

You can also see our Videos in High Definition here - http://www.vimeo.com/goldentouch/videos

 
 

TED Talks: Mark Bittman - The problem with what we eat

When  you have a free moment (21 minute run time) be sure to check out this interesting take on the current state of our Food and our Environment. You can find more information on Mark Bittman here or head to TED Talks to watch more interesting videos.

Field Trip to the Zoo!

The Weather has been great in New England this week and I figured it would be a great time to sneak away for a field trip with my new Grand Daughter. Our Farm Vet and Good Friend Peter Brewer owns Southwick Zoo of Menden, MA and a few weeks ago he called to fill me in on their new bundle of joy, Molly - a 3 week old giraffe.

Peter is absolutely ecstatic over her - and I can't blame him. Yesterday I saw her for the first time and she most certainly carries herself well. She has recently been featured on Good Morning America and the Boston Globe because of an infection that endangered her life.

Here is a blip from that article:

"After fighting off an infection, 3-week-old Molly the giraffe is back home at Southwick's Zoo.

Molly's veterinarian, Peter Brewer, said she probably had an umbilical infection she could not fight off. Molly's mother could not produce milk, he said, and zookeepers instead fed her cow's colostrum, a nutrient-rich milk produced right before and after birth. Brewer said it's usually effective.

"But when she went off the cow's colostrum, she had low white blood cells and got the infection," he said. "We brought her to Tufts University Veterinary School in North Grafton to get her better before it became severe."

Brewer said since Molly came home about a week ago, after a one-week stay at Tufts, her health has improved.

"I took blood from her the other day and her white cells are back up," he said. "She is eating well and we hope she is out of the woods."

After several weeks There is a playfulness and charisma behind those big beautiful eyes - she is in wonderful shape!"

Here are a few pictures we managed to snap while we were back there!


 
 

Marketing Research - Using Google Insights

Recently we have discovered Google Insights which is a great way to gauge internet search trends for certain keywords, which are then mapped out for you. This is a great tool to find out what terms and ideas are growing in popularity. For us in particular, Made in USA is important as we are committed to keeping all of products made in this country by Certified Green Manufacturers. As the country gets back to the basics, more and more people are realizing the importance of supporting their local and regional economies.

You can plug any keywords that suit your needs and get data going back to 2004. You can also pinpoint your searches to local communities or as broad as the entire world. It's a great little tool, and the more you play with it the more powerful it becomes.

When you have some free time head to Google Insights and do some of your own investigation work, it just might help you plan that next big regional marketing push!

 
 
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