Howard and Cynthia Kuhlmann
As a young girl, Cynthia loved playing outside in the sunshine. Living in San Francisco, she sought out neighborhood parks and allowed her imagination to soar. Her spirit and soul renewed by the fresh air, open space and wildlife, she came to realize that she wanted to have a more authentic relationship with nature. Thus began her journey.
As a college student, her need to embrace nature in a more holistic way brought her to Melodi Blanton, a professor at JFK University, where Cynthia studied holistic consciousness, the environment and women’s role in nature. Melodi became a mentor to Cynthia, supporting and encouraging her to explore the strong connection between women, nature and animals.
When she met her first Alpaca, she instantly fell in love with the magical creatures. What followed was a two-year quest to explore and learn all she could about them. She attended workshops and classes at UC Davis, and visited experienced Alpaca breeders all over the United States learning from the best in the industry.
The learning hasn’t stopped there. Cynthia and her husband Howard have attended the UCDavis Camelid Symposium annually since 2007. With plans to launch their own ‘Alpaca College’ in the works, they will share their knowledge and that of guest educators in the industry, with those who are starting their own Alpaca journey.
Cynthia also has plans to offer ‘retreats’ on the ranch so that others may experience her joy and connection to the land and nature. She and her husband grow much of their own food, and the Alpacas have helped to support their sustainable lifestyle by providing not only wonderful, warm fleece but also a high-quality fertilizer which feeds the garden. Truly a circle of sustainable life is Cynthia’s dream.
Howard didn’t think he was interested in working with livestock. He lived in the city, and had a career as a consultant and trainer in the hazardous materials business. His interest in chemistry and biology had provided a satisfying working life and he began to think about retirement.
That thought didn’t last long. Cynthia gave him an article about families enjoying the ‘Alpaca Lifestyle’. At first, Howard just put it aside and didn’t give it any more thought. Little by little, the article ‘called‘ to him until he finally gave in and read it in its entirety. An interest was sparked.
Study began with more articles. The scientist in Howard was intrigued. There were so many science-based opportunities to learn new things. Learning the most advantageous ways to design and run a farm, handling and training, fleece grading and properties, best breeding and animal husbandry practices – including bloodline research, alpaca conformation and more occupied his time and enthusiasm. Now, Howard even has his own laboratory on site to do fecal analysis for parasites.
Carpentry skills Howard learned from his father come in handy on the ranch. As with any ranching operation, there are always repairs, designing and building, as they add more Alpacas to their well-run breeding program.
What started as a glimmer of interest is now a full-time job running an Alpaca ranch. Howard can almost always be found somewhere on the property, working with the Alpacas, installing irrigation, building shelters, and tending the organic garden. It has become not only a new career, but a joyful and productive way of life.