VENICE — The Venice Farmers Market hosted every Saturday offers a multitude of different vendors.
One of the more unusual booths: handmade alpaca items.
One would think it strange to wear alpaca in the warm temperatures of Florida.
However, booth owner Rhonda Wright, of Myakka City, explained all of the qualities alpaca fibers contain and how it fits into the Florida lifestyle.
Alpaca fibers are antibacterial, anti-odor and are hypoallergenic for those sensitive to other textures. The fibers are smooth and do not scratch like wool.
Some of the items at the booth include clothing items like scarves, gloves and hats that are made from the fibers, and many little stuffed animals that have the soft alpaca fur.
“While kids love the stuffed animals, actually more than 50% of adults buy the stuffed animals for themselves,” Wright said. “They buy them for the softness and to lay in bed with.”
While many visitors from colder climates buy the warmer clothes, there is still a market for the residents of Florida. Many residents have family living up north so they will send gifts of warm alpaca items, Wright said.
“Alpaca has the highest thermal value because it has air pockets in the hair shaft,” Wright said. “Those air pockets trap the heat and make it really high thermal value while still being super lightweight.”
The lightness of the clothing still makes it appealing to local residents when it gets a little chilly in the winter.
Another favored item for the Floridians and snowbirds are the socks. Wright said they are popular among golfers because they keep the feet dry and cooler.
Wright has been attending the Venice farmer’s market for eight years now. At the beginning of her alpaca ventures, she used to make all the items herself, but she learned quickly that she did not have time to make enough inventory.
Now she has two alpacas and goes to four markets a week, so to save that time, she imports alpaca fibers and items from a fair trade couple in Peru along with someone in Colorado.
The fair trade program gives the couple and other Peruvians a fair, livable wage to help get them out of poverty.
Despite getting fibers and fur sent in, she still uses local fibers from her own alpacas and a friend’s in Venice. Out of these fibers, Wright makes nest balls, which are one of the more popular items sold at the booth and make for a cozy nest for local birds.
Animal lovers do not need to worry about the harming of any alpacas in the process of obtaining the fibers and fur. The fibers are created from the shearing of the fur once a year. At the end of their life cycle, which is typically 15 to 18 years, the fur is then harvested for use.
Wright said there was no use in killing an alpaca because of the fibers that are produced every single year.
“I love animals. I would never, ever carry something that was raised just to skin it,” Wright said.