City Lifestyle

Want to start a publication?

Learn More

Featured Article

Fluffy Fun With Alpacas

Tour A Farm Of These Gentle, Oh-So-Cute Animals

Article by Sue Baldani

Photography by Ashley Hylbert

Originally published in Brentwood Lifestyle

Located on 15 acres in Franklin, Mistletoe Farm is home to a herd of alpacas--many of whom love visitors.

Started by Leanne and Tom Butchko, the farm was named for the abundance of mistletoe on the property. Plus, while looking at all those cute faces, visitors might just want to kiss one.

“People are surprised how friendly, curious, quiet and docile alpacas are, and that they all have unique personalities, just like humans,” says Leanne. “Some are loving and enjoy chin rubs, and others are aloof and prefer watching life from the sidelines. They're also amazed that an adult alpaca weighs only about 150 pounds.”

When Leanne and Tom, who are both certified public accountants, first heard about alpacas from friends, they did some research. What they learned made them buy their farm.

“We began our alpaca adventures about f15 years ago by winning one alpaca,” says Leanne. “Trick is you can't have just one! They would die of loneliness. So we purchased a mom and cria (baby) and started our herd with three.”

Today, they keep between 20 to 25 alpacas, and breed and sell about 5 to 10 a year. Because of the amount of fiber alpacas produce, Leanne mastered the art of weaving, felting and spinning; she now makes products to sell in their farm store. 

“We're blessed to have several Tennessee knitters that help us make our hats, ear warmers, scarves and other natural goods using our farm yarn. Our family helps with various farm events and the designing of our non-seasonal goods, such as T-shirts, mugs and printed products. We also have six grandkids who enjoy helping out," says Leanne.

Their goal each year is to make use of all the fleece by making yarn with the prime grade fiber. The "seconds" are used to make dryer balls and felted sheets, so nothing goes to waste.

For visitors who would like to learn weaving, felting and spinning, they also offer classes on the farm. All age groups and levels of experience are welcome. 

“Our natural dye classes consist of foraging for natural dye materials in our surroundings, such as walnuts, leaves, berries and flowers. We then teach dye methods including extraction and ‘setting’ on various types of fabric, yarn, silk or paper,” says Leanne.

She says alpaca fiber is hypoallergenic, water repellent, flame resistant, light weight and breathable, and it wicks away moisture while being several times warmer than wool. It also comes in 16 natural colors and dyes easily.

Mistletoe Farm Alpacas is very focused on sustainable practices. Leanne explains that alpacas are easy on the land. Because they have padded feet that do not pull grass up by the roots, they are low impact on pastures and soil. They also eat very little per body weigh; a herd of 10 to 15 alpacas eat about one 50 pound bale of hay a day in winter. The farm also composts their manure directly on pastures and in their dye garden. Alpaca fertilizer is considered a rich soil conditioner and improves soil quality and the ability to retain water. It’s high in nitrogen and potassium, and doesn’t need to be aged like most livestock manure. It also breaks down quickly into the soil. 

To see these adorable animals, book a visit at A typical farm tour lasts 1.5 hours, and half of that includes interacting and taking pictures with the alpacas. The other half is spent in their studio seeing what they make with all that fluffiness.

“We continue to be blessed each year with more and more visitors. Best guesstimate is between 5,000 to 10,000 last year,” recalls Leanne. “We do close during July and August due to the summer heat, and the alpacas tend to spend their days in front of the fans and in kiddie pools!”

“We began our alpaca adventures about 15 years ago by winning one alpaca,” says Leanne. “Trick is you can't have just one! They would die of loneliness. So we purchased a mom and cria (baby) and started our herd with three.”