Washington County has a growing number of businesses based on local, sustainable resources. There are increasing numbers of small farms producing local foods for farmers’ markets, a strong home-based honey industry and several producers of wool and alpaca fibers. To support and highlight these small agribusinesses, St. Catharine College’s department of management has developed a “sustainable business series.” These courses are built around partnerships with local agribusinesses with the college teaching the theories of successful niche business practices, while the community partner provides an in-depth hands-on experience in the specific agribusiness.
The pilot class paired the SCC students with Serano Alpaca and Yarns in Springfield to teach students the intricacies of the alpaca fiber business and how it is an environmentally-friendly, sustainable business on any scale. The students first completed a classroom session on small business startup and the nature of small-scale sustainable businesses. The class then moved to Serano Farm where Ron and Judi Allread discussed the operation of an alpaca farm, animal husbandry considerations and the variety of the alpaca industry (breeding, showing, commercial fiber production, artisan crafts, etc.).
The highlight of the class was shearing day. The students learned hands on every step of the process involved in moving the fleece from the alpaca to final product. They herded the alpacas into the holding area, assisted the shearing team, categorized and bundled the raw fiber and participated in preparing the fleeces for processing.
The students and the Allreads rated the class a resounding success and recommended more college-community partnerships be developed around local niche businesses. In response to the overwhelming positive evaluations, SCC’s management department has scheduled a fiber production/processing class for the summer term.
Founded in the Dominican tradition in 1931 and sponsored by the Dominican Sisters of Peace, St. Catharine College, a Catholic, Dominican college inspired by its founders, welcomes all to the challenging pursuit of truth, preparing them to become critical thinkers, ethical leaders and engaged citizens.