Even for extreme yokels, buying local can prove a challenge—especially when you’re looking to outfit yourself for the brutal chill of a Montana winter. One Bozeman company, Alpacas of Montana, has faced this issue head-on. While most alpaca farmers merely breed and sell livestock, these guys take it a step further and actually produce textiles.
Alpacas of Montana is as local as it gets, raising their animals right here in Bozeman on a farm off South Cottonwood Rd. Starting with a sheering party every May, they collaborate with other farms around the state—Montana’s alpaca aficionados are a tight-knit community who team up whenever possible. After sheering, they grade the fibers for quality, sorting by fineness and color. Then it’s time for the mill. Facilities in Bozeman, Broadus, and Kalispell spin the yarn and prepare it for knitting. Using artistic creativity, the knitters—90% of whom are in the Gallatin Valley—weave it into textiles, making every hat or pair of booties unique.
Getting a locally made, one-of-a-kind piece of winter apparel is only one benefit. Alpaca fiber is as soft as cashmere, and is warmer, lighter and stronger than sheep wool. Twenty-two natural colors offer more variety than any other fiber-producing animal in the world. The material is also waterproof, absorbs ambient humidity, and acts as a thermal insulator, providing greater protection and comfort in a variety of climates and temperatures. Unlike merino wool, apparel from Alpacas of Montana can be washed in hot water and tossed in the dryer. Throw in greater fire resistance and increased strength, and it’s pretty clear that going local doesn’t mean giving up quality—quite the reverse, in fact. For more info, visit alpacasofmontana.com.