Small alpaca farm in Cumberland helps redefine an industry

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CUMBERLAND — Tom Munroe and his wife Stacey Whitton could be the new face of farming at a time when raising healthy, homegrown food and promoting sustainable living is on the rise, but time and money are in short supply.

They bought Abbott Farm about five years ago and now run a small business with alpacas, chickens, compost and a garden. They will host Christmas with Alpacas on Dec. 4 to promote alpacas, their fiber, production, products and more.

Munroe said they wanted to move to a country setting and raise a few animals, but did not plan to start a farm. They discovered their home on the corner of Range and Bruce Hill roads dated back to the 1700s and belonged to the Abbott family for 105 years. After the Abbotts left, Munroe said, no one had lived there for more than eight years.

“Historically it seemed fitting to name the property Abbott Farm, after the family,” Munroe said.

With a degree in wildlife management, Munroe said he was always interested in animals, but didn’t have a lot of time to dedicate. He is the owner of a construction management firm called Cap Service and works full time.

“We started with chickens, then a goose and then a pig,” he said. “We looked into getting sheep and goats, but we kept coming back to alpacas.”

Now the Munroes have a few alpacas and have created a sustainable farm model. The chickens are free-range and produce eggs, the pigs eat what the family doesn’t compost and the manure from the animals added to the compost will create enough to sell to the community next year. Munroe gets leftover grain from Gritty McDuff’s in Portland to feed the chickens and pigs and add to the compost.

“This is what works for us and I think it can work for a lot of other small-operation farms,” he said. “I have a full-time job and am a soccer coach, but we grew into this. It’s educational, sustainable and helps pay for itself.”

On Dec. 4, SuriPaco of North Yarmouth and Abbott Farm Alpacas will host the second annual Christmas with Alpacas farm stand at Estabrook’s, 337 East Main St. in Yarmouth.

The event is from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and will feature local and regional alpaca fiber producers, their natural and dyed alpaca knitting yarn, socks, hats and felted scarves and sweaters. There will be refreshments available and Munroe invited people to bring a non-perishable food item to donate to a local food pantry.

“A rising tide raises all boats,” Munroe said. “The more farmers that gather together the better.”

There will be shearing, knitting and fiber grading demonstrations, an area for children to make crafts, a place for people to make their own fiber, a vendor area and area to meet and pet the alpacas. The Future Farmers of America, 4-H and the Maine Farm Bureau will be available to answer questions and offer  information. 

Munroe hopes to expand the event each year by encouraging more local farmers to participate. All the proceeds raised goes to the vendors.

“We want to help other people who want to do this,” he said. “It is possible to have a small farm, a few animals and make it work. If we can help raise awareness of the small farmer community in Maine and help set an example for others, we will be successful.”

Amy Anderson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or aanderson@theforecaster.net

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Stacey Whitten, owner of Abbott Farm, takes a moment to hug a baby alpaca. The farm will join with SuriPaco of North Yarmouth to host an informational gathering about alpacas on Saturday, Dec. 4, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Estabrook’s in Yarmouth.

Finn, left, and Fionna smile for the camera at Abbott Farm in Cumberland. The animals will be available to pet and feed at the second annual Christmas with Alpacas event at Estabrook’s, 337 East Main St. in Yarmouth, on Saturday, Dec. 4.

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