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home : news : putnam   May 25, 2016

3/18/2014 9:23:00 AM
How would you spend your retirement? Granville couple chooses alpaca farm

Mike O’Sullivan feeds an alpaca from his rural Granville alpaca farm. Mike and his wife Anna decided to spend their retirement raising alpacas.NewsTribune photo/Shannon Crawley/Serpette
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Mike O’Sullivan feeds an alpaca from his rural Granville alpaca farm. Mike and his wife Anna decided to spend their retirement raising alpacas.
NewsTribune photo/Shannon Crawley/Serpette
Shannon Crawley-Serpette
Staff Writer

Mike and Anna O’Sullivan completely changed their lives on a whim and they couldn’t be happier with the results.

Mike and Anna originally are from the Chicago area and were living in Skokie when they had an unusual idea about what they’d like to do with their time after they both retired from the Chicago Transit Authority. They went to a realty office and inquired about land in the Illinois Valley area — they wanted a bit of acreage where they could raise alpacas. Alpacas seems like a strange choice, considering the couple had never been around them before.

A popular tourist attraction led them to choose the Illinois Valley as the place to make their retirement dream happen.

“We used to go to Starved Rock and enjoy that area,” Anna said.

After a search for suitable property, the couple purchased land in rural Granville where they began raising alpacas and llamas in 2008.

“We appreciate all our wonderful, helpful neighbors who welcomed us to the area,” Anna said.

The couple has adjusted well to country life.

They love the serenity of their farm and thought long and hard about what to name it before deciding on Hidden Paradise Alpacas.

“We love it out here,” Mike said. “We’d never go back.”

The transition hasn’t always been easy — the couple has had to learn to roll with the punches.

The first alpaca birth — normally an easy process — was a difficult one.

“They didn’t expect her to live,” Anna said about the baby.

But she survived.

The couple spent much time learning about alpacas and are happy to share their knowledge with visitors.

“They give birth to one baby at a time. Gestation is 11½ months. They are herd animals,” Anna said.

The women tend to jockey for dominance and the boys are a bit more playful, she said.

“They’re very cooperative,” Anna said about the alpacas.

“They are very easy to take care of,” Mike said. “They all have their own personalities. Some are friendlier than others. They’re all pretty good.”

The alpacas are sheared once a year in May. The fleece is then sent to an alpaca fiber cooperative for cleaning and grading.

The on-site gift shop features alpacas products, such as alpaca fleece-felted soap and alpaca socks.

“The alpaca socks are big sellers here. Everybody wants socks,” Mike said. “Alpaca fleece is the warmest, most exotic and comfortable thing you could probably put on your body.”

The farm has more than alpacas. The animal count is two llamas, 14 alpacas and two on the way, two miniature horses, two miniature donkeys, three goats, five rabbits, three cats, five dogs, and an assortment of chickens, ducks and guineas.

The farm gets a steady stream of visitors, both local and from out of state.

“Since the beginning of December, we’ve probably had 300 people out here,” Mike said. “We do tours in the spring and the summer.”

Visitors are free to interact with the animals, pack a picnic lunch and enjoy the scenery, Mike said.

The normal hours for the gift shop and farm are 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays and 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturdays. Tours can be arranged at other times by calling (815) 830-5290.

“Visitors are welcome to visit the farm and gift shop during operating hours. There is no admission fee,” Anna said.

Eugene and Joan Kunkel of Granville have been to the farm numerous times.

“I think it’s pretty neat,” Joan said. “You can tell they’re really enjoying their operation.”

When the Kunkels have family visiting, they take them to the alpaca farm.

“Everyone we have taken there has really enjoyed it,” Joan said.

Reader Comments

Posted: Tuesday, March 18, 2014
Article comment by: CRobinson

Where is the Alpaca farm? Need directions.

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