On a Saturday morning in a backyard on the Jersey Shore, nine alpacas run into a pen with the same merry spirit as Santa’s reindeer. They might not have antlers, but they have garnered the attention of many devotees who are lining up for the chance to take a photograph with them in their red and green Christmas ensembles.
This is not just any ordinary backyard — it's the property of Jim and Tish Carpinelli — also known as the Jersey Shore Alpaca Farm. Since the farm was founded in 2005, the Carpinellis have transformed their 30-acre backyard into one of New Jersey’s most unexpected agritourism destinations.
“One day i was looking through a magazine and I saw an ad for alpacas. I jokingly went to my husband and said that's what we ought to do — raise alpacas,” Tish said. Jim was on board.
Tish, who works full-time as a high school librarian, spent time researching alpacas and decided there were no negatives to starting such a venture. It certainly takes a specific type of person to only see the positive in turning their backyard into an alpaca farm and spending every Friday night cutting up carrots for visitors to feed them. But the Carpinellis feel like it’s their calling: “For some strange reason, we feel like God has led us along this path, and continues to lead us to do this. It’s not like most people are called to be alpaca farmers.”
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The draw, according to the Carpinellis, is that it’s a slice of the country for city dwellers who find themselves vacationing on the Jersey Shore. “Plus, it’s interaction with people,” Tish said. “We live in such a technological society — a lot of times you just don’t get that personal touch anymore.”
If the Wildwood boardwalk doesn’t pique your interest, perhaps these alpacas will. Visitors can partake in private tours, feed the alpacas, or attend special events like the holiday photo shoots that occur every Saturday leading up to Christmas.