Saturday, January 16, 2010

On the Campaign Trail...

Sorry I posted so many new subjects at once. The hard drive went out on my computer, so things sort of got stacked up.

As mentioned in an earlier post, Noah and I are both running for Board of Director positions on the MI-ALPACA board. While haven't really been out and about on a campaign trail, we have sent some emails out to voters and had our pictures and bios included in the election packet. I wanted to share those bios with you here.

Noah Schwander- Ashton Stone Alpacas

I am running for the Northern Region Position for the MI-ALPACA Board of Directors. I have a Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics from Grand Valley State University and have spent the past several years designing and implementing a terrain park program at Cannonsburg Ski Area. In 2006, my wife and I started researching alpacas and looked into the possibility of getting into the alpaca industry. Later that year, we purchased our first two huacaya alpacas and Ashton Stone Alpacas was born in the small town of Grant, 30 minutes north of Grand Rapids. In the last several years I have learned so much and have ventured into almost every aspect of the alpaca industry, from shows and farm open houses, to fiber arts and sales and marketing.

I believe that MI-ALPACA can tremendously assist the alpaca industry in Michigan and that all farms members will benefit from this association. As a member of the Board, I would strive to meet the goals laid out by MI-ALPACA. I would also make every effort to listen to the members’ ideas and concerns and address their needs through the association. In addition to working towards the goals of the association and members, I would also like to spearhead a MI-ALPACA newsletter to keep members involved and informed of the progress of the association. It would also be a great place to promote seminars and keep members up to date on what is happening in the Michigan alpaca industry. I also believe it would be beneficial to begin holding regional membership meetings to not only encourage sharing of resources and ideas between farms, but to promote camaraderie and social interaction between members. It would also be a great forum for discussing ideas and concerns that are specific to each region in Michigan. Michigan has a diverse group of talented, creative and skilled alpaca farmers and I am eager to get more farmers volunteering and participating in the individual committees. I am excited to see how these resourceful alpaca farmers and their committees will advance the industry in Michigan. In addition, I hope to see, not only the Board Members create a timeline for their specific goals, but for the committees to form goals and time lines as well. I look forward to volunteering for MI-ALPACA. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to email me at or visit our AN page at Thank you for your time and consideration.

Jillian Schwander- Ashton Stone Alpacas

I have always been enthralled with animals and grew up wanting to be a veterinarian. Instead, I attended the University of Michigan and majored in psychology and cultural anthropology and now work with Runaway and Homeless Youth for a non-profit organization. Although I enjoy working with youth-in-crisis, I never gave up my dream of working with animals and in 2006, my husband and I began our alpaca adventure by purchasing our first two female huacayas and beginning Ashton Stone Alpacas. Our farm is located in the small farming town of Grant, about thirty minutes north of Grand Rapids. In four years, our herd has steadily grown to just over a dozen huacaya alpacas and one suri. On our farm, we are dedicated to producing healthy alpacas with superior fiber quality and beautifully balanced proportions. I am enthusiastic about bringing awareness to the public about these amazing creatures. I am also passionate about fiber arts and have learned to spin and knit this year. I am eager to continue honing my skills and discovering so many more amazing uses for alpaca fiber. So far, I have learned many things on this journey and have met many amazing people on my way. I look forward to many more years on this road with these marvelous animals. For more information about me or to see what is happening at Ashton Stone Alpacas, please visit our farm blog at

One of the most important things I have learned so far on this adventure is the importance of building a network of people whom you can go to for support. This was especially important when I was just starting out and had little knowledge of alpacas and animal husbandry in general. On this journey, I have experienced much joy and some sorrow and it was my network of alpaca breeders and veterinarians whom I turned to to celebrate with me during the joyous times and to support me in the times of need. Just as I have come to rely on this special network of people, the alpaca industry is really in its infancy compared to other livestock industries in the United States, and must rely on a network of support to survive. I have decided to run for the MI-ALPACA Board to help promote a network of alpaca breeders, fiber processors, commercial producers and sellers of alpaca finished products, Michigan educational institutions and alpaca research organizations to help advance the alpaca industry in Michigan. It is especially important in these rough economic times that we make this network strong and share our knowledge and resources with one another to create a thriving alpaca market in Michigan. I am eager to come together as a group and help establish and support a South American Camelid Department within the School of Agriculture at Michigan State University. I am also anxious to find a way to produce cost effective, in-demand items that are produced from our Michigan alpaca fiber. In addition, I am excited to be involved in not only bringing awareness to the public about alpacas through alpaca shows and other events, but educating our members as well through seminars that focus on what the members are interested in learning. I look forward to volunteering for the board as well as expanding my network to include you and your farm. Thank you for your time and consideration. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to email me at or visit our AN page at .

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