Wall Street Journal October 4 2008
When Stocks Tank? Some Investors Stampede To Alpacas
Who can blame an investor for taking to the bottle?
Andy Pick, a 49-year-old stay-at-home father in Atlanta, recently bypassed the stock market for liquid assets -- $120,000 in champagnes. He bought 400 bottles, mostly 1996 vintage, that he says he plans to "sit on" for 10 or 15 years and then sell at a profit.
"It sure beats looking at a Merrill Lynch monthly statement," he says, adding, "The worst thing that could happen is that I drink all of it."
Given the gyrations in the financial markets, some investors are abandoning stocks and bonds and seeking refuge in unusual alternatives -- parking spaces, for instance, and condos in Peru. Sales of exotic livestock are up.
Peggy Parks invested in alpacas, which she believes have a better outlook than most mutual funds.
Investors have long turned to hard assets in market downturns, the idea being that if you invest in something real, it won't disappear, even if its value declines. But analysts say this downturn is different in that real estate, the most traditional safe haven, is also sinking. Between July 2006 and July this year, home prices dropped 19.5%, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller 20-city composite home price index.
After the market dropped in January, Steve Borter, the 56-year-old president of a heating-and-air-conditioning company, did invest in real estate, but not the usual sort. He became landlord of a single parking space in Chicago. He bought a 12-by-20-foot spot in the Field Harbor Parking Garage for $29,000 and rents it out. "The stock market is indicative of a lot of uncertainty. With a parking space, at least you end up with something," he says.
Peggy Parks, a 49-year-old auditor in Johnstown, Pa., turned to an unusual farm animal. "I've lost a fortune in stocks, and my 401(k) is falling through the floor. I feel comfortable in alpacas," she says. She invested $56,000 in a small herd that she believes has a better outlook than most mutual funds because of the animals' breeding potential.
The national Alpaca Registry Inc., in Lincoln, Neb., says registrations are on pace to rise 7% this year and currently stand at 140,297. Ms. Parks says a female of "medium quality" can fetch $10,000 and that prices have been rising, supporting her hopes that she'll see a profit on her alpaca portfolio in five years.
From Sea to Shining Pasture?
The sea was calling to us, and we answered. In the spring of 1991, shortly after we were married, Michael and I moved to our, “yacht”, a 1973 Chris Craft Commander. We lived on it just outside of Boston Harbor, and planned to do forever! Or so we thought.
By the middle of the second unusually cold winter, my parent’s gracious offer for an empty apartment in their home was thankfully accepted.
The apartment was great for the winter and the boat was perfect, of course, for the summer. But both Michael and I yearned for a little place of our own. Greener pastures as they say.
We found and purchased a true fixer-upper in Malden Mass during the middle of a major New England blizzard. Our first piece of The American Dream. Our boat became just a weekend getaway rather quickly.
Michael wanted more land and a quieter country life. So in 1999 we found a brand new house on a beautiful cul-de-sac in Wilmington Mass. Nothing to do but add Man Town, as Mike affectionately referred to his un-finished attic. While he was building this room for billiards, I sat alone watching a late night show, and saw an ad for Alpacas. Thus began the demise of Man Town.
I researched, and talked and talked about Alpacas to my wonderful husband. I even told him I was going out to buy a couple! I said, “Our half acre property would do just fine. We have wonderful neighbors, and they won’t mind. Much.”
On April Fool’s Day I asked a fellow co-worker to call Michael and tell him that his two Alpacas would be arriving later that day.
At last I had his attention, and our Alpaca journey began!
We went to several shows, and began to visit farms. As passionate as we were about the sea and boating, and smitten with our new home in Wilmington, we both felt the same way when we saw our first Alpacas. It was love at first sight with these amazing animals.
A short time later we visited Chase Tavern Farm, and made the proverbial plunge selling the boat and purchasing several bred females and a young male. This young male, turned out to be the Multiple Champion, GREYBEARD! So bye-bye Sea, and hello Greener Pastures.
The next several years were spent doing anything and everything Alpaca related. Helping out at Chase Tavern Farm, attending shows, visiting farms, and taking clinics. We continued agisting/boarding all of our alpacas.
Along the way we were able to add some additional, “foundation herd” females, as well as two future Herd-Sires, CHRISTIAN GOLD, son of the nationally known 4Peruvian Altiplano Gold, and Wolverine of the Accoyo Grand Master line.
We always knew we wanted our own farm someday. At this point in our lives, the thought of living in the country and starting our own business was very appealing. So in the spring of 2005 we sold our house in Wilmington Mass, and purchased an 1880’s classic New England farmhouse in Auburn, Maine, with 26 acres of land and a pond.
Plans were to begin pasture and barn improvements in the spring of 2006, and move our Alpacas to our own farm “before the snow flies” as they say. And this we have accomplished. Also on-site is a small farm store which will carry our alpacas yarns, rovings and other alpaca garments.
As we continue along our chosen path, we both find it delightful that the calling of the sea has ever so magically been replaced by the gentle humming of our Alpacas.
Darlene & Michael Reardon-Full Moon Alpacas & Full Moon Country Store
Article as written for The Maine Alpaca Association.