Three Oaks Farm has Happy the Alpaca and her kid. It has fresh eggs still warm from the hen who laid them, donkeys who love to be brushed and a goat who helps his human visitors do “yoga” by occasionally jumping on their backs.
All these critters share the farm on 90 acres of land in Forest Hill with “Farmer Pam” Purce and her family. The former elementary school teacher combines her love for children and her love for animals by providing educational, socially distanced farm tours that are open to the public.
For $80, a group of up to eight people is guaranteed that for 90 minutes they will be the only humans on the property except for their tour guide.
“This farm has been in our family for 70 years,” said Purce, 48.
“When my husband and I came here in 2018, we decided to renovate the old farmhouse, even though some people thought it was beyond repair. This is my dream business.”
She tailors the events to the desires of the participants. Some families prefer to interact and learn about all the animals. Occasionally, a single adult will rent the farm and spend his or her entire 90 minutes in the pen with the alpacas— gentle, quirky beasts who will eat out of visitors' hands.
There are paint days when visitors can sit and sketch, happy hours featuring bring-your-own adult beverages and an opportunity for home brewers to pick their own hops. (This two-hour event costs $150 for up to 10 people. )
There’s an on-site farm store that sells gloves and hats knitted from the wool of the animals on the farm. Purce leads story hours at the local library featuring her original rhyming picture book, “Happy the Alpaca."
“When I went to the public library, I couldn’t find any books explaining the difference between llamas and alpacas,” Purce said. “So I wrote one myself.”
More than 50 animals live on the farm, including 15 alpacas and an ever-changing mix of rescue animals. That’s a lot of mouths to feed and coats to brush and manure to shovel. But two daughters help out with the animal care and marketing.
“It’s a lot of work, but I don’t mind,” Purce said. “This keeps me young.”