Visitors join the herd at Island
Alpaca on Martha’s Vineyard.

by Jennifer H. McInerney

For centuries, Martha’s Vineyard has beckoned tourists with its expansive beaches, iconic lighthouses, historic Gingerbread Cottages, distinctive Flying Horses Carousel, and other myriad attractions. But that’s not all—for the past two decades, visitors have been flocking to the island to meet the gentle, adorable, and extremely soft residents of Island Alpaca.

There’s just something wonderful and endearing about alpacas, as Barbara Ronchetti discovered at the annual Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Society Livestock Show and Fair 25 years ago. For Ronchetti, who had never seen these animals before, it was love at first sight. 


“They were really intriguing to me with their big, soulful eyes, soft fleece, and gentle, calm demeanor,” she recalls of this initial encounter. 

Despite having no prior experience with alpacas or livestock of any kind, she became determined to open an alpaca farm on Martha’s Vineyard. She embarked on countless hours of research and visited as many alpaca farms as she could, including a few in Italy and Peru and more than 50 throughout New England. She learned firsthand how to raise and care for alpaca herds.

“After meeting with all of the farmers, I thought it was doable to have an alpaca farm here on the island,” she says. “Of course, the biggest challenge, as the sole investor, was affording a large enough parcel of land.”

Through community connections, she happened upon a local family willing to sell agriculturally zoned acreage that would bring her dream to fruition. She then set about the laborious process of separating the pastures, rebuilding a 200-year-old post-and-beam barn, constructing paddocks, and creating parking areas and a gift shop—making the farm comfortable for alpacas and humans alike. 

In 2004, Ronchetti opened Island Alpaca Company, centrally located on 19 acres along Head of the Pond Road in Oak Bluffs. The original herd started with eight females, including seven pregnant ones. On move-in day, she welcomed a total of 31 alpacas to their new home. Today, the farm hosts 36 alpacas and two recently added llamas. 

Island Alpaca is the only farm of its kind open to the public year-round daily from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Naturally, summertime draws the biggest crowds, with up to 600 visitors on busy days. During most months, a guide is stationed outside to welcome guests and share alpaca information. 

Throughout the year, the farm presents a multitude of fun and educational programming for folks of all ages. The daily Alpaca Walk-and-Talk outing pairs participants with an alpaca for a stroll around the farm. “It’s a great way to get to know an alpaca and find out how gentle they are,” Ronchetti observes. 

Twice a week, on a seasonal basis, the farm hosts Alpaca Yoga in the pasture alongside the animals as they graze. Says Ronchetti: “Alpacas are calm and non-aggressive. Having them present during the yoga classes really adds to the ambience and positive energy. For the last 15 minutes of class, participants get to pet and hug the alpacas and pose for selfies.”

Alpacas are also available to make weddings, birthdays, and other celebrations even more memorable (at the client’s chosen venue). They can be dressed up in a white veil and pearls and top hat and bowtie to attend a wedding, for example.   

For other special occasions, the farm offers Alpaca-Grams, aka an alpaca-delivered message plus a bag of goodies from the gift shop, brought to one’s doorstep.

Every year, on the last Saturday of April, all of the alpacas in the herd take part in the Annual Shearing Day, an event that always attracts a crowd. A professional shearer is brought in to harvest their fleece—a painless process that takes approximately seven to eight minutes per alpaca and yields eight to twelve pounds of fleece, depending on the animal’s size. The finest fleece is spun into yarn, which is then used by local knitters to create many of the gift shop’s beautiful items, including hats, mittens, baby sweaters, blankets, handbags, and more. 

As a breeding farm, Island Alpaca offers sales and short-term boarding as well as an Alpaca 101 program that teaches new owners about best care practices. “People come here on vacation and, after visiting the farm, become interested in owning and raising their own,” says Ronchetti.  


For those who are unable to visit the farm in-person, an Alpaca Cam streams live daily from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. via For online ordering and visitor information, visit
1 Head of the Pond Road, Oak Bluffs. 508-693-5554

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