The Betsy Scrivener

Lazy Llama Campground

Brilee Culbert, Freelance Journalist

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In the “AdVentures in Business” class at Elizabethton High School, we are encouraged to choose a certain project to work on individually. I have an interest in agriculture; I’ve lived on a small farm my whole life. I am a member of 4-H, FFA (Future Farmers of America), and FBLA (Future Business Leaders of America). My teacher, Mr. White, has encouraged me to interview a local agribusiness owner and do a newspaper article about that business and what I’ve learned from them. I’ve now decided to interview several agribusinesses and have a series in the school newspaper. My first thought was, “Who am I going to interview?” I contacted an alpaca farm in Limestone, TN which my family has known for years. They gave me the name of another farm near them called Walnut Ridge Llamas in Chuckey, TN.

I went on walnutridgellamas.com to see what they were and what they do before I contacted them. At Walnut Ridge, they have fifty registered llamas they breed and sell later on. I have never had too much experience around llamas and  wanted to learn more about them. On their farm, they also have a summer camp for children and a campground called, Lazy Llama Campground. I wanted to learn how they manage the farm and the camps. Below is my interview with, Jerry Ayers:

Why are you in business?

We’ve always done something off the side from education. We’ve had the farm for over 20 years. Opportunities with the campground came up about 3 years ago.

Why are you in this type of business?

For you to be successful in this type of business, you have to be passionate about it. We’ve always loved the animals.

What is your background? Education, Work Experience

I went on to get my Bachelor’s degree in Special Education and my Master’s in Supervision Administration. That led to me being the Principal at Greenville High School for 21 years.

Can you provide me with a description of your business?

We have the farm. We got into Agritourism. We’ve let people come and visit the llamas. We’ve bought and sold llamas. A lady passed away on the land beside us and we bought it. We turned that into our campground; Lazy Llama Campground.

How long have you been in business? In this business? In other businesses?

The farm: 25 years

Campground: 1 ½ years

 

What type of business form do you have, sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, or an LLC?

We are currently a sole proprietorship.

How did you get started in this business?

I took my entrepreneurial interest and took advantage in this opportunity and creativity.

How did you get the background and skills necessary to run this type of business?

I grew up on a small dairy farm with my grandparents. I then got my degrees to work in the school system and that gave me leadership skills.

How do the social, economic, environmental, technological, legal and political environments impact your business?

Technological: We have to have Wifi since everyone and everything is online now.

Social: Facebook is very important for the campground, as well as the website.

Economic: If the economy is bad, some people may go camping instead of going to the beach so that will bring in more business for us.

How do you market your business? How are people aware of your business?

I am a member of Good Sam, the largest campground website out there.  I also promote activities in the local newspaper, our Facebook page, and our website.

Where do you see your business in the next year? In the next five years? The next ten years?

Next year: I will continue trying to grow it.

10 years: I may try to sell it for what it’s worth. I may retire. I may travel.

Do you plan to compete in the global market place? If yes, how? If no, why not?

It’s more national with people coming in to visit. People come from almost every state and even Canada and Newfoundland to visit the farm and the campground. We’ve probably have had people from at least over forty states come. For a little campground in Chuckey, TN, that’s impressive. I typically have more customers in the summer than the winter, but we have had a lot of people stay in the winter. I have thirty-one camping sites and eighteen of them are full in January.

Why is your business located at this site?

We took an opportunity of buying an old trailer park and we made something of it. We refurbished it to run our business.

 

Whom do you seek advice from for your business?

I am a member of the Tennessee Campground Association. I have met a lot of people through it and I have taken advice from them. There is also a closed group on Facebook where I can ask questions to other campgrounds. They will give you advice on there as well.

Do you have employees? How many?

I do not. I hire mowers once a week in the summer and stable hands about 6-10 hours a week. Our stable hand is actually a football player at Tusculum University.

What is your management style?

My management style is probably shared leadership. I have to let people know what my expectations are.

How many llamas do you have on your farm?

I currently have fifty and ten babies are due in the spring.

Is there a certain kind of llama that you have/raise? 

A llama is just a llama but, there are certain llamas that depend on the body type. We have fiber llamas. We go hiking with them, but they’re not as big as packing llamas.

How much do llamas usually sell for?

It varies through the years. From 2000-2008 it would’ve been around $2,000. Now, llamas are about $1,000 to $3,500.

Are any of the llamas registered?

Yes, my whole herd is registered.

Where do you buy the llamas? I have personally seen them at local stockyards before, but is there any other place you can buy them?

Finding them at local stockyards is not typical. That situation is more for people who don’t want their llamas anymore. Also, at local stockyards, they’re more than likely not registered. Finding a registered llama will be more expensive. We sell them online. People come and visit the farm to see the llama we’re selling. We’ve also sold them at a premier auction in Oklahoma City where a lot of llama breeders from the United States and Canada come to sell the buy llamas. That’s where one of my llamas sold for $11,500. The biggest auction is in Indianapolis. The highest price there is about $10,000.

 

 

How often do they breed?

Llamas are different from other animals; they do not go in heat. I keep my males separate from the females. We breed twice a year, either in May or July. A llama’s gestation period is 11 ½ months. We get babies about every year to two years.

Do you have any other animals? 

I have some rescue animals. I have two miniature donkeys, one miniature horse, one emu, one dog, and three cats.

Can you give me a description of your day camp for children?

This is our fifth year and we’re already getting phone calls in January.

It is for kids from 9-13 years of age to have experience on the farm. I try for everyone to have a baby to take care of. We call it their “Companion Llama.” My wife is an art teacher and she gives them art lessons in the morning.  Then they eat lunch. In the afternoon, we got on hikes. They groom them and help me train them to walk on a halter. At the end of the week parents can see what all the kids have learned with their “Companion Llama.”

How many children do you typically have at the camp?

It has varied through the years, but usually between ten and fourteen children.

How much does the camp cost?

The day camp costs $200 for each child.

Staying at the campground is $37-$41. It depends on which part of the campground you stay at.

How often do you have the camp in the summer?

We do it for one week for the kids and one week for the adults out of the summer.

Can parents stay on your campground during the day?

Last year, we had campers who brought their grandchildren to the camp. We’ve had day campers from Florida, Virginia, and North Carolina.

How often do you shear the llamas?

We shear them once a year.

Do you use the fiber to make any products?

Yes, we send most of it off to a fiber mill.

If so, what products do you make?

Yarn, socks, gloves, and hats.

Do you sell your products?

We sell the products in the store at the office at the campground.

How much do you sell the products for?

The hats sell for $25, socks $24, gloves $20, and the yarn prices vary.

Do you have any advice for someone who may want to start their own llama farm?

Llamas are very intelligent. They’re not like cattle. Each one has their own personality. They’re cheaper. You can feed six llamas for one horse. For me, it’s about like having eight horses.

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