Sunday, December 26, 2010

Alma Park on John Stossel re-airs Dec 26th 8 and 11pm EST

John Stossel blogged about me !!  Ha Ha - I love it !!!  Click here to read what he said!! If you missed the show - watch it tonight at 8pm EST and 11pm EST on Fox News. 

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Alma Park on Fox News with John Stossel - My Take (video link also)

John Stossel interviewed me for his piece on Fox late September of this year.   I was told that the piece would include alpaca farming because it can be "a great investment with lots of tax benefits, as well as just a rewarding thing to do".   A woman boarding here at the time originally had the initial contact with the producer and since she does not have a farm asked me if he could film at mine.  I jumped at the chance, as long as I was interviewed I said.   Our national organization, AOBA, did not want to do the interview, and I was never contacted by them for any assistance or inquiry if they could participate, which of course, I would have been happy to oblige.  I have been an AOBA member since 2002 and am currently on the Fiber Committee for a 2 year term. 

So we spent several hours filming a bunch of stuff.  Interacting with the alpacas, teasing some females with my male, feeding and other general stuff.  They also spent a good deal of time filming me in my yarn store packaging some items and skirting a fleece outside on my skirting table.

John showed up and asked questions about tax benefits, tax shelters, the potential for alpacas as meat and of course the fiber aspect of raising them.  He also asked about Mike Safely's article on "Why Not Have Uncle Sam Help You Buy Your Alpacas". 

The show finally ended up being "Top 10 Politicians' Promises Gone Wrong"

Click here to watch the video - lasts about 3 1/2 minutes into the video.  Mixed up a little with the golf carts can be a little confusing.

The teaser piece was on Fox 12/15/10 and caused a wide variety of dissension in the alpaca world.   Here is the write up on Stossel's blog and the tons of comments from disgruntled breeders calling Stossel anything from misinformed to a racist. 

On the Alpaca chat sites, much more was said, and the insults hurled at me JUST from the teaser piece were erroneous, inflammatory, childish,  and in some cases just plain stupid.  One Suri Alpaca breeder from Pennsylvania actually called my taking the interview "amateurish" and "selfish".   Selfish?  Selfish in what way, that I chose to speak about something I love - alpacas?  Amateurish?  Amateurish in what way, like the way he hurled insults at me ?  Another breeder from California called me "unintelligent" and said I should have focused on the fiber end of the industry.  DUH - that is what I always do . . . I don't have control over editing.  Other said I should have made my lawyer draw up a release.  Oh come on people - are you serious?  

Now that the actual piece has aired, the chat sites are quiet.  No more insults.  Some have come out and said that they thought it was a good piece!  One breeder even said he was going to name his next alpaca "Stossel".  I also received many emails in support of my interview and slamming the people that flamed me.  People are even reporting getting phone calls from people who are interested in alpacas and are interested in "learning more about the tax breaks".  Not everyone agrees with me or my philosophy and that's ok - this IS America folks!

But lets look at the interview this way.  Alpacas in the public eye on a channel that targets people with money!!  I say it's a good thing.  No one complained when Jane Pauley, Martha Stewart, David Letterman, Stanley Steamer, Jay Leno or American Express had alpacas in the news. Even an article in the Tractor Supply Magazine.  In fact people were overjoyed.  This is ONE MORE opportunity to show American that Alpacas are NOT llamas, not long necked sheep etc. 

I find it funny that so many folks deny taking tax benefits from the business as if it is something to be ashamed of?   While tax benefits are far from enticing today in this economy to enter the industry- it was a MAJOR source of marketing years ago and a MAJOR source for many to get into the business.  Today, I believe and I see that most people are getting into the industry for the business opportunity and the fiber end of the business and the love of the animals. 

I lowered my prices on animals several years ago before the economy started to decline.  I have many posts on this blog speaking about the economics of the industry.  I was one of the first to lower prices, of course to the nasty looks and emails of others - but now MANY folks have prices which are more to the "average consumer" .   

Here are a few articles I wrote over the last couple of years: 

Alpaca Market and the Economy - Sept 2008

The Market for Alpacas - Jan 2010
The Market for Alpacas 6 months later - July 2010
The Economics of the Alpaca Industry Oct 2010
Buying on Value rather than Price - Dec 2010

To show how alpacas were marketing in the past - here are some links to our own national breeders organization, AOBA.  Literature produced by AOBA still touts tax benefits as a huge advantage and many of us advertise during the end of the year to "get your year end tax benefits and buy by 12/31". 

Article 1  "can offer the rancher some very attractive tax advantages" Nothing speaks of profiting from fiber except as it relates to income from the "sale of crops". 

Article 2 "Tax-deferred wealth building is another "alpaca advantage". As your herd grows, you postpone paying income tax on its increasing value until such time as you begin selling the offspring."

Article 3

While these "advantages" are for all ag businesses and/or small businesses - we TOUT it as the main reason to buy and invest.

And again let's not forget Mike's Article

I have used these tax advantages for marketing in the past and still use them today depending on who my customer is and their economic status.  Even the folks who are NOT looking for tax benefits are still plenty interested on how this will positively impact their taxes.  I have read and used many of Mike Safley's tax items and even send people to his site on the tax benefits, section 179 etc etc.  Anyone not taking advantage of the tax benefits should get a NEW Accountant!!  
I am also a fan of Fox news and my favorite show is Bulls and Bears on Saturday morning.  Being in this business over 8 years, I have seen my share of turmoil and controversy and sometimes have been right in the middle of it !!  I also have been building a fiber business for about 6 years and have been very successful.  A  reason why many folks come to me for advice or animals or yarn designs etc.  Turning this from a tax shelter to a business took years and it continues to evolve, but let me tell you that I will take advantage of any tax benefit the government has in place.  That is what all small businesses do!  That is what all agricultural businesses do !!  

As far as subsidies - we are NOT talking subsidies.  We are talking write offs. So those folks talking subsidies and hand outs have an incorrect impression of this industry, any ag industry or small business.  Subsidies and grants are  out there - but take grant writing application and specifics that are not as easy as a simple tax write off.  See this article for some grant websites. 

Many folks still work full time and have this as a secondary business.  It is in most cases a labor of love or a passion for the fiber or the animals or both.  

I think John did a great thing by allowing alpacas to be center stage again and if asked - would I do the interview again?  I say ABSOLUTELY!!!  Did I mention the film crew purchased approx $500 in alpaca products from my store before leaving? 

A quote I leave you with today (I hope I do this with my writing and my actions): 
"If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader." --John Quincy Adams

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Alma Park on Fox News with John Stossel

The alpaca segment John interviewed me for will air at 9pm this Friday (December 17th) on Fox News.  Here is a blog post John just posted about the segment.

Now while I do usually find John to be spot on - I don't think that tax breaks made alpacas "explode", but as I have been saying for months if not years - prices need to come down to a "reasonable" level in order to support their true purpose  . . . . FIBER!!!!!  

Before people comment and bash John Stossel --- I think some posters on his blog and the alpaca chat sites are missing the point of the article. He is NOT  bashing the alpaca industry.  He is pointing out that tax breaks may help the serious farmer or business person etc, they also invite people to use them as a tax shelter which artificially inflates prices and creates a bubble.  People who simply board their animals and are completely hands off for example.   When the bubble bursts, all get hurt.  I lowered prices years ago - but there are still people out there on the precipice of the bubble waiting for the economy to recover and the huge prices come back.  I am not waiting!  I lowered prices and I am selling, and selling alot!  Economics 101 - "an item is worth what others are willing to pay for it".   I also have a thriving fiber business which is the commodity that MAKES alpacas viable livestock - FIBER.  

A brief description of the whole show is below (Alpacas fall into #6):

Please tune in to the FOX NEWS CHANNEL this FRIDAY at 9 PM ET to see Politicians’ Top 10 Promises GONE WRONG with John Stossel

Politicians make promises, and brag about the results of their work, the “seen” benefits, but they ignore the unintended consequences—the “unseen” harm-- of their laws. Politicians PROMISED that…

10… CASH FOR CLUNKERS would save the auto industry.  Instead, it increased the costs of USED cars (the ones that poor people buy), decreased charitable donations, and just moved auto sales from other months into July and August.

9… increasing the MINIMUM WAGE would guarantee everyone better pay, but it ended up killing jobs.

8…TITLE IX would end discrimination against women in sports, but instead it has taken sports away from both men AND women.

7… Big projects like STADIUMS, ARENAS, and CONFERENCE CENTERS will create jobs.  Instead, they steal money from the local grocery store.

6… Politicians manipulate the TAX CODE to “save small farmers,” and “save the environment,” but instead create an explosion of ALPACAS, give rich people like Stossel free GOLF CARTS.

5…CREDIT CARD REFORM would save us from horrible bank fees, but “reform” led to higher credit card interest rates and less credit for the poor, which drove them to worse forms of credit.

4…the HEALTHCARE bill would give us cheaper more comprehensive healthcare, but instead it’s causing insurance companies to stop offering health insurance altogether.

3…ETHANOL would relieve our dependence on foreign oil AND save the environment, but instead it’s increased the cost of food, done MORE damage to the environment, and to taxpayers.

2… Politicians said more HOME OWNERSHIP was good for America, but their subsidies created a bubble that made life worse.

And tune in for the #1 PROMISE GONE WRONG.  

The Mr. Frost Book is FINALLY a Reality

After a long journey - the book is finally ready.  Mr. Frost is now 3 years old!!!  He was raised in our home with bottles and has thrived. 

Want to order a copy of the book?  Click HERE

Want to see a slide show of pics of the REAL Mr. Frost click HERE or click below

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Buying on Value rather than Price

For new or prospective buyers out there – how do you decide on low price versus value in today’s alpaca market?

Today’s alpaca market presents a variety of unique opportunities and pitfalls.  The new breeder has to be able to navigate the waters and decide if alpaca that are low in price are “cheap” or are simply the result of an economy trying to stay afloat.  Some people have discounted alpacas considerably in order to reduce expenses of care or to disperse their herd.  Others (like us), have decided that the prices were inflated and we need to come to a more reasonable level.  Economics 101 – something is worth only what someone else is willing to pay for it.

At Alma Park, we lowered our prices years ago, ran specials and tried to attract new breeders into the industry.  Along the way, we have had some prospective buyers think that are animals were of lesser quality or value because they were below the inflated market prices seen all over the Internet.   Pricing is a critical aspect of any business.  Not all buyers shop on price and maybe Wal-Mart type items is sold on price alone, in an industry such as alpacas, most folks are looking for value, mentorship and a solid underlying business plan with profit motive. 

I have been told by many new folks who came for a farm visit that we were the only farm/breeder they visited that actually does something with their fiber.  That we are the only ones that can answer the question “can you make money from the fiber?”.  I find that disheartening but not surprising. 

Remember, you are not just buying an alpaca, you are buying access to the breeder.  You are buying that breeders knowledge and you are buying "business assets" or "inventory" for your business.  You want the breeder to be able to give you "value" for your purchase, not just in terms of a great animal, but also on what they can offer you in terms of knowledge!!  If you simply want to purchase an alpaca, there are a lot of "cheap" ones out there that will be dumped at your doorstep with no support or future knowledge transfer.

Because most new folks coming into the industry do not know exactly what they are looking for in an alpaca (other than maybe color), there has to be a certain degree of trust in the first person they purchase from and they have to feel that there is "value added" services that go along with their purchases.  My first purchase had none of those services and I felt quite alone with my new purchase of my animals.  My husband and I vowed that this would not happen to our clients.  Of course we try to help each new person and give them as much info as they want and they can handle, sometimes, people are resistant to our advice, feel they can do it better etc, and those are folks that I typically do not forge a long lasting relationship with.  While this is a rare occurrence, it does happen and the old adage is "you can't please everyone", and for my sanity, I have stopped trying to !!

My advice to new breeders out there or people who are looking to enter into the alpaca market is simple.  You must ask these questions or observe these value added items for yourself:
1 – Is the farm you are visiting doing ANYTHING with their fiber?
If they aren't, you have to wonder why not and what they are actually breeding the animals for !

2 – If they are – do they readily have products available from their own animals or from a co-op that they can show and sell to you?
Unless they are sending all their fiber to a co-op and do not want any products back to sell (this is rare), I find it hard to believe that they have nothing to show you IF they are processing their fiber. Also - having products SHOWS what these animals are bred for! Having no example product, to me shows no faith in the future of a sustainable industry.  They should at least have on a pair of socks, a scarf etc!! If the weather is hot, then can they show you a rug, blanket or other items they might use in their home, that perhaps they do not sell? Do they have ANY yarn from their animals ?

3 – Are the products in the farm store North American Made or are they all Peruvian imported?
If all the products they sell are imported from Peru, and they have nothing from the 3 main co-ops in the US or their own yarn etc, I again find it hard to believe that they are doing anything with their fiber.  While many people sell Peruvian products in addition to NA products, having ONLY Peruvian products to me shows a lack of faith in the future of the NA fiber market. 

4 – Can they offer you marketing advice?
Will they help you get set up with advertising sources, website advice, etc or do they want to keep all that "good info" to themselves?  My opinion is that my customers ARE NEVER my competitors!  I WANT them to succeed as they will be the best advertising for me in the future! I want to help them in any way I can.  I want the animals I sell them (that are breeding/show stock)  to go on and win many ribbons for them! I want the fiber and yarn I help them prep take many ribbons as well!

5 – Can they help you get your fiber prepped for showing and/or the mill?
This is one of my niches.  I think that being able to learn from your fiber, prepping it for show and the mill is the most important aspect of the fiber side of the business.  

6 – Do they know how to skirt, sort and grade fiber or do they simple think taking a single animal’s fiber and sending it to the mill is good enough for a quality product?
same answer as #5

7 – Can they talk to you about what histograms mean and represent (all the numbers), and not just the average fiber diameter (micron count) ?
It is NOT all about micron count!!  SD and CV show consistency in an animal's fiber.  These items (in my opinion) are much more important than micron count alone.  Having a fine animal that is REALLY inconsistent is not going to be easy to skirt or sort and will bring less money in the long run on the fiber side and may not produce consistent offspring.

8 – Can they help you show your animals?
Do they show halter? Fleece? Spin-Offs?  Can they help you with this? Can they help you determine which animals should go to which level shows? Can they help you prepare for a show?

9 – Can they help you train your animals ?  Are the animals that they are selling you calm, easy to work with and around and handle? Are they trained with kindness and a proven method such as Camelidynamics?
As a Apprentice Practitioner with the Camelidynamics program and working with Marty for several years, all of our animals are easy to work with, helping teach others how to work with their animals is another value added service !!  To me this is one of the most important items regarding animal care!

10 – Do they have detailed health records on their animals? Do they do things such as fecals? Can they teach you how to do them?
Detailed health records should be available for any animal you purchase.  Some farms are better at this than others.  Fecals and weights are the most important health related items in my opinion!  Doing fecals on site and being able to share that knowledge with you is a wonderful value added service!! 

11 – Can they talk to tax advantages?
Of course with the added caveat that  you should speak to your accountant, can they explain section 179 and depreciation? Can they tell you what items are tax deductible ? 

12 – Can they help with a business plan?
Once you decide which direction you would like your business to take - can they help you sketch out a business plan to help you get there?  Can they show you S.M.A.R.T. goals and help you map out a reasonable time frame to get there? 

13 - Can they provide you a list of items to have on hand when you bring your first animals home?
Common items such as first aid supplies and not so common items.  

14 - Will they train you on routine care (such as shots, toenails, identifying a sick animal) prior to you taking delivery of your animals?
To me this is a MUST for each new owner to learn.  

Not every breeder/farm will be an expert in all the points above.  We all have "niches".  You need to decide which items are most important to you.  There may be items that other farms do that I am not aware of - so if you are a breeding farm and have a suggestion - please let me know.