Old Homestead Alpacas To Host Open House June 15

Photo by Ciana Vasquez

Photo by Ciana Vasquez

Elaine and Mike Vandiver didn’t set out to be farmers.

“We simply hoped to enjoy the beautiful red barn, sweeping views of the Blue Mountains from the farmhouse porch, and maybe get some critters to complete the country scene.”

After spending time on the property, which includes a milking parlor and creamery, Elaine said they were ”compelled to find our own unique way to return the farm to its pioneering and productive roots.

This became Old Homestead Alpacas.

The farm, located at 5260 Stateline Rd. in Walla Walla, will hold it’s once-a-year open house on June 15 from 10 a.m.- 4 p.m. An entry fee of $2 per person (ages 2 and up) gets you unlimited alpaca love. You can also learn about the homestead's pioneering heritage. A display of historic documents, including one signed by President Ulysses S. Grant in 1875, trace the property’s ownership back to Nathaniel Gholson’s first claim under the Homestead Act.

Old Homestead Alpacas started their alpaca herd with 3 females. This grew to 25. Suddenly, the two U.S. Army veterans were first-generation farmers.

“As we often say, alpaca are a lot like potato chips, you can't just have a couple…” Elaine said.

Photo by Ciana Vasquez

Photo by Ciana Vasquez

After the first fiber harvest in 2014, Elaine and Mike began with producing knitting yarn and spinning fiber. Now, they produce professional, machine-knit garments, such as scarves, hats and gloves. To avoid using commercial acid dyes and chemicals on the natural fiber, Elaine researched natural dyeing techniques and began collecting dried heirloom plants and flowers. They soon began their first dye garden and, shortly after, began to grow cut flowers.

The cut flower business became Gholson Gardens. You can visit their charming, vintage flower trailer at the local Downtown Walla Walla Farmers Market, where they also sell their knitwear. You can also find them at College Place at Lions Park every Thursday or head to their website for more information on OHA and Gholson Gardens.

Old Homestead Alpacas is a proud member of the Farmer Veterans Coalition, a non-profit organization supporting, encouraging, mentoring and inspiring agricultural and ranching careers for returning service men and women.

– Ciana Vasquez