Follow the herd

When Beth and Danny Tischler pack up their kids to visit their family-owned business, they leave their suburban Darien home and head to a farm to scoop poop, fill water troughs and walk furry animals bigger than the kids.

The Tischlers, who work in real estate, began raising and breeding alpacas almost three years ago and now own 25 of the animals on a farm in New Lenox. Alpacas, originally from South America, look similar to llamas but are smaller. They’re prized for their fleece, which is sold to make items such as sweaters and blankets.

Raising alpacas is a great family business, because there’s little the kids can’t do, says Beth."It’s about so much more than the money. It’s something to learn to care for them and to make decisions about what to do with the money when we sell an alpaca. Do we fix the fence, buy another alpaca? They’re involved in every aspect of the business.”

Because alpacas are generally docile animals, the kids are able to harness them and walk them around the farm. Some of the alpacas have become so attached to the children that they come running when Kelly, 13, Will, 11, Sean, 9, and Jack, 7, come to visit. Kelly and Will show the alpacas at local shows, which are similar to dog shows in that animals are judged on their teeth, fleece and how they walk.

Beth and Danny say this is a great way to earn a living while spending time with your family. During the summer months when the kids are out of school they’re at the farm almost every day helping out."They’re learning responsibility and commitment, about taking care of something,” Beth says."And they learn about love. I’d say Kelly is absolutely in love with two of the alpacas. It’s amazing.”

The Tischers encourage anyone who’d like to see the alpacas to set up a time for a free visit to the farm. For more information on visiting the farm or on alpacas, call (630) 229-3008 or visit The farm is located at Hickory Creek Farm, 550 N. Marley Road, New Lenox.

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