October 04, 2016
From a career in medicine and living downtown Denver, Colorado, to operating a multi-location alpaca farm might be a stretch for some people…but not for FarmHer Jane Levene. Jane owns and operates Jefferson Farms Natural Fibers, a business where she raises alpacas and markets their fiber. Over 20 years ago Jane found herself looking for a property just outside of town only to be closer to her aging parents. What she found was three acres of agricultural zoned land. In order to keep that zoning Jane and her husband Alfred got a few cows. Fast forward a few decades and those few cows have turned into hundreds of alpacas and a growing business for this Colorado FarmHer.
As the business grew, Jane expanded to a second location with a farm-stay property south of Denver in Salida. There the operation has grown to hundreds of animals, overseen on a daily basis by a farm manager. The animals are sheared once a year and Jane has the fiber milled in Utah then sells it direct at festivals and events, and has some made into products for her on-farm store.
On my visit to Jefferson Farms, I arrived at the Salida ranchette just in time to watch Jane and the farm manager work together to move the alpacas from their barns to a pasture then back to the barn. Jane explained that they boys are kept in one barn and the girls in another. Sounds about right with livestock, huh!? The boys were in the barn closest to the farm stay house and apparently were making too much noise at night so Jane was working to move them to a barn further away and also moving the girls to the boys old location. Moving day went down just like clockwork with the speedy animals running as fast as their legs would go to their new location. I found it interesting that I could stand among the alpacas as they ran and I was in no danger. Jane explained that alpacas are very intelligent and aware animals - they are conscious of the space around them and take care to not run into or over a person.
I stood and photographed as the animals flew by me, some slowing down with curious stares. From there we followed the animals into their new barns to make sure everyone was adjusting to their new location - again Jane told me about how aware they are of their space and that they will all wander around and check out their new digs. We even stopped to feed a few of the curious but cautious animals - a #FarmHerFirst for sure! My visit to the farm wound down with a quick visit to the on-farm store that Jane operates in Salida. The products were absolutely beautiful. Jane does not have any of the fiber dyed when it is milled so it only comes in gorgeous gray, orangey-red, white and black tones. Together these fibers create amazingly soft and warm clothing products, socks, hats and last but not least a beautiful wall hanging that I just had to take home to adorn my FarmHer office wall.
What a thrill it was to meet this amazing FarmHer who unexpectedly found her path into agriculture decades ago and today has built a solid and successful business around her passion. The beauty, agility and unique nature of Jane’s beloved alpacas was an experience unto itself. My first trip to a ranchette set in the heart of the beautiful rocky mountains in Salida, Colorado was one I won’t soon forget.
Watch the video clips from Jane's farm here.
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