Sometimes the second calling is the one to follow
It all began at a class reunion. And with a little alpaca named, Wings. And then a pet became a love, and a love became a business. Life can be funny. Sometimes we start out on a path that just dissipates as another more fulfilling one opens. Such was the case for Barbara and Randy Coleman, owners of Wings and a Prayer Alpacas in Amity, Oregon.
Barbara recounts, “I went to my 25th class reunion in Southern Oregon, and my best friend from high school, who I hadn’t seen since graduation, shared that she and her husband had just quit their jobs six months earlier and started an alpaca business.”
The seed was sown.
Randy was a journeyman mechanic/fabricator and Barbara an executive secretary, and between them, their farming experience consisted of a grandfather who owned a farm and various animals that played a role in their childhoods. It was not very deep. In fact, they knew little to nothing about alpacas. But that all would soon change. Wings entered their hearts and made them think about living a very different life – one in which they were in charge of their own destinies, working outside and with animals they came to love. In time, both left their professions for a much more satisfying and enjoyable lifestyle.
“We learn by doing. Our philosophy is to focus on breeding high quality animals. We raise both Huacaya and Suris, but mostly Suris that have the longer, silkier, fiber coats,” Barbara explains.
There are two types of alpacas – Huacaya has fiber similar to that of sheep for colder weather habitats. More rare is the Suri, recognizable by the straight and softer fiber and the characteristic part that runs down their backs, opening their skin to the elements and helping them regulate warmer temperatures. As a breed, they are easy on the ground, having only two toenails. They cannot pull out grass by the roots because they only have bottom teeth. They are communal animals, not able to live a full life alone. At one time, they were promoted as “Alpacas – The Huggable Investment.”
The journey from that first small alpaca has taken the Coleman’s at times to owning up to 200 head. But they are now managing their breeding program very tightly, and the numbers are decreasing, but their business is booming. Their reputation in the industry is impeccable, and their animals are finding their way across the entire country and world with a recent shipment to Japan.
“Because breeding is the core of our business, birthing seasons are the most exciting. It’s like Christmas. You don’t know what is in that package. But when it arrives, it’s very cute and shows what our breeding program is producing.”
Barbara runs an alpaca wool product store on their property that is worth a visit. From stunning sweaters to the most “huggable” teddy bears, her shop is testimony to the richness and quality of wool produced out of Amity.
“Amity picked us. We were living in a nearby community and had four acres and needed more acreage. We also wanted to add outside boarding and transport to grow our business. We were looking for a farm, and the one we now own was once home to an alpaca breeder. That, combined with Amity and McMinnville’s friendliness and inviting nature, we knew that people would be interested in our work and supportive,” Barbara said.
The Coleman’s are part of a national alpaca movement and know breeders in nearly every state. While they have four children, none work in the business, but the grandchildren relish the visits to the farm and playing with the herd. They are set for life in their ranch along Interstate 99- their lives transformed, and their hearts settled in Yamhill County.
Barbara concludes, “This is God’s country. We live here because we have chosen to live here. Randy can transport all over the country from here, and we can say that this is our home- where we really want to live.”
Wings & A Prayer Alpacas