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Farm rebuilds after devastating fire - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Farm rebuilds after devastating fire

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WALDEN, Vt. -

"I've got 60 alpacas, 40 angus and I'm also boarding 50 holstein heifers, but I'm not milking any cows," says Mike Michaud.

There was a time Mike Michaud couldn't imagine not milking cows.

In May 2010, by the time firefighters got to this spot on Walden Mountain, they could only save the surrounding buildings.

"It was shocking, I guess," he says. "You come into shock when something like that happens. You don't believe it. You're in denial."

And then, you start making decisions.

They've had a lot of boys born this year. He says, that's not ideal for an alpaca farm that counts on breeding, but Michaud says, that's something he can't control. Just like that fire that has turned a Vermont dairy farmer into an alpaca farmer.

Reporter: "When people come out here, they must be amazed!"

Michaud: "They are. But even walking in the parade this year, we hear, 'Look at the llamas, look at the llamas!'"

Michaud and his partner Nicole LeBlanc know that educating comes with that decision to diversify their farm.

"Their fiber grows about five or six inches each year. So we sheer them at the end of May before the hot weather starts," says LeBlanc.

Nicole cleans it and sends it to a mill in Richmond where it's turned into yarn. A friend does all their knitting.

This shop sits right in the spot where Michaud used to milk his cows.

Reporter: "What does it mean to you today to still be out here, but in a different way?"

Michaud: "Ah, very good! I've taken a negative and made it into a positive."

In a place he hopes to never leave.

Right now, Mike and Nicole are getting a lot of visitors!

They only opened the shop this Spring and the views up there can't be beat!

A little more about alpacas:

Alpacas farming started in the U.S. in 1984. They're used for their fiber, meat and leather and are native to South America. Alpacas like cold winters and mild summers.

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