Bob Comfort has lived all his life on Rosedene Road, since 1960 but the farm has been in his family since 1944. Before that his Grandfather Stanley rented farm land from the early 1920’s from family and friends. He traveled to the St. Catharines’ Market each week where he sold hay to the local Milkmen for their horses. Now Bob owns and rents 600 acres to grow hay and crops. “The original Comfort farm where Bruce and Craig Comfort live presently has been in the family since 1796,” tells Bob, when a Mother and her three children came to the area from Pennsylvania. Bob is related to Bruce and Craig-seven generations back!
Bob starts each day by going to his computer in the kitchen and checking the weather. Then he is off to feed his 40 cows and their offspring. He raises bull calves for freezer orders, is a salesman for Bio-Ag, raises some chickens for eggs and makes and bags food for Alpacas, cattle, ducks and chickens. He makes hay for his own livestock and sells hay to local farmers. And he is married to Leslie Comfort well known for her herd of Alpacas. “I always wanted to be married to a farmer,” says Leslie, “and now I am. Sometimes I don’t leave the farm for weeks, as there is always something that needs to be done here.”
In her late 30’s Leslie wanted to learn how to spin. “I headed off to Hilly’s at the Warm and Wonderful Wool Farm in Wellandport, where I took some lessons and became part of the Twisted Sisters. We met every Saturday to spin and knit and share stories. One Saturday, Cathy brought some Alpaca wool and I began investigating them. I traded some of my rare breed Canadian horses for my first Alpacas.” “My farm was on 15 Rd, and my mother always said, my daughter’s bought a shack.” My then husband Nick Bothen of Kreative Karpentery built the barns and all the pens.” After marrying Bob it was too much to travel back and forth between farms and the farm on 15 Road was sold and the Alpacas moved to the home farm. Presently there are 250 alpacas happily eating hay and produce as you approach the farm. There are 40 pregnant Hembras, so many Crias are to come.
Alpacas are members of the Camelidae family. They produce fibre that is as fine as cashmere, soft, silky, and much warmer than sheep’s wool. With the exception of Mohair, alpacas produce the strongest animal fibre in the world. Their fleece comes in 22 natural colours of any fibre bearing animal. Alpacas also make great show animals. They are very easy going, and good natured animals. Alpacas are a curious animal but are easy to handle in a ring. They train very easily and are gentle enough that children can lead them. Alpacas also adapt to our Canadian climate.
They are sheared once a year and the wool is harvested into yarn. The
Comfort’s send their wool off to two different mills, Freelton Fibre in Puslinch and Alpaca’s from Eighth and Mud in Stoney Creek. On average each alpaca will produce 5 pounds of yarn. Leslie’s store ‘Shear Comfort’ is presently closed as she is under construction for her new store. Stock piling her wool as she expects it will fly off the shelves as soon as the sign goes up that she is open again. Alpaca fibre is classified as a rare specialty fibre. It is soft and luxurious like cashmere and warmer than sheep’s wool. Alpaca fibre has a smooth cell structure containing microscopic air pockets. It is an exceptional insulator, having more thermal capacity than any other animal fibre. It is natural, healthy, extremely durable, and comfortable to wear; their hypo-allergenic quality provides no itch and does not contain lanolin.
While her store will sell hats, mitts, scarves, duvets and socks, the socks are the most popular item as they are so warm. Jean Brown from Hamilton is her knitter. Working together they decide what to make. A king size duvet is priced at $500.00 but you can purchase a pair of socks for $25.00. “The reason they are so popular is they are warm, fine and thick.”
Why does Leslie love her Alpacas? “I am addicted to nurturing animals,” she says, and I wish to be successful.” I will be taking seven to ten to the shows starting in Orangeville in April and then to Quebec. This helps with the sales of animals.” For the past two or maybe three years she has been the highest selling breeder according to the Canadian Llama and Alpaca Association.
What are the disadvantages to having Alpacas and to farming in general? “Well for the past ten years I have smelled like an Alpaca,” she laughs, “and we are always late for every party.” “But here on the farm we are creating good food, mouth watering beef, pork and rabbits.”
What is in the future for the Comforts? Opening the store, raising rabbits and providing quality GMO free feed and hay without pesticides. Just being happy! Leslie sure looks happy when she is with her Alpacas.