When looking to grow a family by adding a few four-legged friends, most families consider a dog or a cat, maybe a bird or rodent if they’re feeling adventurous. But after staying at a Vrbo on an alpaca farm, Sasha King, the owner of Critters Creek Farm, knew these large, fuzzy teddy bears would be the newest addition to her family.
“In 2011, before I even knew my husband, I was in Washington for a business trip and I drove past a farm that had 75 alpacas,” King said. “After seeing her fleece and all of these beautiful animals, I thought to myself, ‘One of these days, I’m going to own alpacas.’”
Flash forward to 2017, King and her husband were getting brunch one morning in Placerville, California, when they stumbled upon a sign directing travelers to an alpaca farm and store just down the road.
“We spent hours at this farm with the owner and her herd,” King explained. “We fell in love with this little brown alpaca that looked like a cocoa bean. She was that dark and rich, so that’s what we named her: Cocoa bean.”
King describes how she looked at her husband, wondering if they were going to commit to starting a farm. The Kings returned home that afternoon with four young alpacas.
“You can’t just have one because they’re a herd animal,” King said. “So one turned into two, which turned into four. And now we have nine.”
Shortly after starting their herd, the Kings decided to make the move up to Idaho. Their house sold before they had a chance to find their new home, so the alpacas stayed at a friend’s house while the Kings searched for their dream home.
With the property purchased, a barn needed to be built to house the alpaca herd, and the Kings farm continued to grow in the meantime.
“When we first moved into the house, before we had the barn built and before the alpacas were here, a friend told me she just had piglets and wanted me to come see them,” King said. “Of course we said yes, but she didn’t tell us that these were potbelly pigs. So we got there and she asked if we wanted to buy one, and, of course, one ended up being two.”
Once the barn was finished, the Kings went to pick up their four alpacas, and due to natural processes, there were now eight of them. But the farm didn’t stop growing there.
“Two Christmases ago my husband bought me a Nigerian dwarf goat, and a few months later, the owner asked if we wanted to buy his brother, and we just don’t know how to say ‘No,’” King explained.
All in all, the Kings own alpacas, Southdown babydoll sheep, Nigerian dwarf goats, Giuliana potbelly pigs, Galloway cows for meat, and a few cats and dogs running on the property.
Originally, King wanted to start the farm to breed and use the alpaca fleece. But as they acquired different kinds of animals and began to learn about the responsibilities, the best avenue seemed to be gearing the farm towards educational purposes.
“Once we started adding the other breeds, it wasn’t just about the alpacas anymore, we wanted to educate people on all our animals,” King said. “When we got the pigs and I started learning more about them, they’re fascinating creatures, and we want to share that with other people.”
As a part of this education initiative, the Kings opened up Critters Creek Farm for tours this past year, and hopes to move into birthday parties and events within the near future.
“I’m a realtor, so people will hear about the farm and then they can just go on the farm and see times that are available,” King explained. “People can call me and make plans on the phone as well. We try to be as flexible as we can.”
With the large array of animals on the property, King has been making an effort to try and utilize all the animal products she can as a way to provide for the community as well.
Selling alpaca fleece from Peru, dabbling in goat’s milk soap, and growing her garden to help feed her animals, the Kings stay busy, even through the winter. But they’re not alone, as Caldwell has a large agricultural community that helps to support one another.
“The best thing about Caldwell is the small business owners and that community,” King said. “I love going downtown and supporting other entrepreneurs and having access to the different groups and support that we have in this city.”
All photos courtesy of Critters Creek Farm website