A Woman’s World – The Story of West Ranch

In a world where “busy” is the theme of most everyone’s lives and “rushing” appears in almost every sentence, there is a group of women who have found a passion in life that allows them to remove these words from much of their vocabulary. The Women of West Ranch (www.alpacasatwestranch.com) are a group of women at various stages of their lives who have found a common passion in breeding and raising alpacas and are pursuing this dream right here on the Central Coast. The Ranch, located on the Firestone Vineyard property in Los Olivos, is a 40-acre ranch that is home to over 100 alpacas and 5 llamas.

Two years ago, Joan Speirs, Hayley Jessup and Kelley Lucia joined forces and their herds of alpacas to create a cooperative ranch where they could each pursue their love of these calm, endearing animals. To this partnership Joan brought over 23 years experience in raising camelids (alpacas and llamas) and a large herd of animals, both her own and others that boarded; Hayley brought her own animals, a background in marketing, and the land where the animals could live; and Kelley brought her own smaller herd and her extensive background in animal care and herd management. To this trio has been added the calm, good sense in the form of Lena Meurling, who has added to the mix a natural affinity for the creatures and a passion for working with alpaca fiber; and finally Kathie Palaima, another local alpaca breeder, has brought her medical background and her compassionate love of the alpaca.

Joan’s three grown boys all grew up with alpacas and llamas in their yard and now Joan’s six grandchildren are learning about “Juana’s pacas” on their frequent visits. Hayley, with two college-aged children and two elementary school children, finds time between her other part-time job to spend as long as possible at the Ranch working hands-on with the animals. Kathie’s two college-aged children, and particularly her daughter Michelle, have been enormously helpful as her own ranch has expanded. Michelle has also spent the last few months working with Kelley once a week in a special internship learning more about herd management and animal care. Lena’s husband travels extensively for work but through her work with the alpacas as the chief breeding specialist, Lena finds her time alone disappears quite quickly. Finally, Kelley is learning how to juggle the joys of a one-year-old with her alpaca business and finds that the animals and the one-year-old are a great match.

All the women of the Ranch have discovered that the patient nature and easily maintained alpaca fits comfortably into their full lives and the lives of their families. To some, the attraction to the alpaca is the “humming” of the animals as they graze in the pasture; to others it is the newborn cria that pull them in; others find joy in the freshly sheared animal and the stunning products that are made from the alpaca fiber; to another it is the joy of showing the animal at an alpaca show with the ribbon at the end. The Women of West Ranch invite others to learn more about their world of alpacas and the multitude of joys that can be found with them.

For more information about Alpacas at West Ranch and the five women who are involved in the Ranch, please look online at www.alpacasatwestranch.com or call 805-698-4540. The Ranch will be hosting a seminar, The Right Start, which is a perfect introduction to owning and raising alpacas.