| Sep 03, 2009

Back to HomeFeature Article - September 3, 2009 Celebrating natural fibresby Julie Druker

Phot right: Hanne Quigley with Silent Valley Helaina, courtesy of Robert and Hanne Quigley:

In a effort to create global awareness of the benefits of natural fibres, the United Nations General Assembly and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN have declared 2009 the International Year of Natural Fibres.

In celebration of the Year of Natural Fibres, Robert and Hanne Quigley, owners of Silent Valley Alpaca, an alpaca-breeding farm that they started up near Ompah in 2001, will be hosting their first ever Natural Fibre Festival.

According to Robert Quigley, “We decided to have our own festival to show people what we are doing and to have a chance to see the beautiful fibre these animals produce and the products created with it."

The Quigleys breed, raise and sell alpacas for their high quality fleece. They also process fleece into a variety of products, including yarns and batting, at a mill near Wilton. These products are then sold to a number of different manufacturers and artisans who in turn spin, knit and weave high quality products such as socks, shawls, duvets, hats, socks, mittens and finger puppets.

Silent Valley Alpaca is predominantly a breeding farm and the Quigleys sell breeding livestock and offer their clients a full customer support package, which includes instruction in animal husbandry and shearing. They also provide their clients with a full business plan.

Widespread in South America, where close to 3,000,000 animals exist in Peru alone, alpaca farming is gaining momentum in Canada. In 2001 the Quigleys began their alpaca farm with five animals and now have close to 30 in their herd.

In 2002 they co-founded Alpaca Ontario with four other Ontario alpaca farmers and since then, they have watched their organization grow from 17 members and 35 animals participating in their first inaugural show in 2002 to 165 members and 305 animals participating at this year’s show.

The Quigleys have designed their upcoming festival to give visitors a chance to meet and view the alpacas. Robert explains they are “a very hardy but also very gentle, and curious animal" that communicate in a most unusual way.

Alpacas are an ecologically friendly breed, easy on the land and can also be halter-trained as companion animals.

This weekend’s festival will include a number of local fibre artists and crafts people giving demonstrations and selling their unique fibre wares.

Ankaret Dean will be giving a felt-making workshop and master weaver Ellen Good will be demonstrating indigo dying techniques. Janie Hickman of Janie H. Knits will be giving knitting demonstrations.

Hanne Quigley will be demonstrating fleece sorting and will take interested visitors through the entire fleecing process. Robert will be leading barn tours and providing educational information about these gentle creatures.

Silent Valley Alpaca is located at 1120 Donaldson Road, east off highway 509 between Snow Road and Ompah. Admission is free the festival runs from Friday, September 4 to Sunday September 6, from 10am - 4pm. For more information call 613-479-0307 or visit www.silentvalleyalpaca.ca

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