After 20 years, it's time to alpaca it up

Cathy Whitehead and Ed Hutchings of Felix Cove are closing the petting farm and the wool shop, and even selling their house.

The famous alpacas on the Port au Port Peninsula have been sold to a farm in central Newfoundland

Cathy Whitehead and Ed Hutchings feed their alpacas for one of the last times. The animals were sold to a farm in central Newfoundland (Colleen Connors/CBC)

Every day for nearly two decades, Cathy Whitehead and Ed Hutchings have looked out the window of their home on the Port au Port Peninsula and seen alpacas.

The couple got two of the adorable, fuzzy beasts in 1998, thinking they would be nice to come home to after a long day in their jobs as RCMP officers. 

"When we first got them 20 years ago, nobody knew anything about alpacas. We didn't know what they were up until a year before that. Eddy came across them in a magazine," said Whitehead, who with Hutchings ran a petting farm in Felix Cove.

Clarenville the alpaca peeks its head in the barn for a look. All the alpacas are named after places in Newfoundland and Labrador. (Colleen Connors/CBC)

Over the years, a couple of alpacas turned into nearly 40 at the province's first farm for the animals. Eventually Whitehead and Hutchings began to shear the animals, using the wool to make socks, sweaters and shawls sold out of a shop built onto their home.

But now the animals have been sold to a farm in central Newfoundland, the farm and wool shop have been closed, and the house is for sale.

"It's very emotional," she said — not closing the shop, but saying goodbye to the animals born there on the farm.

"They range between nine and 17 years old. So some of them we've had an awful long time, and it will be difficult to look out and not see them. But we know they're going to get really good homes. So it makes it OK."

Tourist attraction

Over time the Felix Cove alpaca farm and store became a tourist attraction, attracting thousands of visitors every summer, Whitehead said. It's something she believes the area will miss.

"We provide something for people to do other than, you know, look at scenery and hike. So it's great for children especially, if you're traveling with children. So I think I think we will be missed," said Whitehead.

The remaining alpacas at the farm in Felix Cove on the Port au Port Peninsula go to their new home Oct. 10. (Colleen Connors/CBC)

The two tried to sell the whole business kit and caboodle back in 2014, but they could never find the right buyer. 

By this past summer they were under a time crunch, so they dropped the price and sold the alpacas, the two barn goats and two barn cats.

"We'd like to do some other things while we're still healthy," said Hutchings.

The couple plan to travel the province, spend winters in Florida and visit their children and grandchildren in Nova Scotia. They're excited to move forward but know that saying goodbye will still be hard.

"We're still extremely attached, and it's going to be very difficult to see that trailer leave and go back to an empty barn," Whitehead said.

"But maybe a bottle of champagne in that empty barn will help," Hutchings said.

The alpacas move to their new home Oct. 10, and Hutchings and Whitehead plan to visit often.

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