Walnut Ridge Llama Farm

Tennessee educators find fiber, fun and full-time fascination on the farm.

| January/February 2008

Jerry and Carolyn Ayers fell in love with llamas at the 1998 Rare Breed Exposition in Knoxville, Tennessee. The brilliantly colored fiber, slinky bodies and mystic personalities of those noble camel cousins so captivated the couple, they decided to purchase two right then and there and take them back to their small farm in Chuckey, Tennessee.

Now, eight years later, their 10-acre spread is home to more than 50 llamas. “We are llamaholics,” Jerry declares proudly. “We’re addicted to their serene nature and beauty. Our passion for llamas has become a business.”

Close to 30,000 llama farms can be found nationwide. The couple’s Walnut Ridge Llama Farm and Store is the second largest such farm in Tennessee.

Located on a hillside along the Chuckey Highway between Greeneville and Limestone, the farm welcomes visitors who can go face to face with the llamas and browse through the Walnut Ridge Store. They quickly understand why the Ayerses like these extraordinary creatures so much.

A tale worth telling

The Ayers operation was founded about a decade ago with Suffolk sheep and Nubian goats, but now, except for one emu, one miniature horse, one pot-bellied pig and a flock of chickens, the family is living the full-fledged llama lifestyle. Jerry still maintains his position as principal at Greeneville High School, but Carolyn, a former fourth-grade teacher, has now dived into the llama business full time.

“People are enamored by the llamas,” says Jerry, describing the animals as the perfect alternative livestock. “They’re cheaper to raise than cows or horses and require less maintenance.” For the price to feed one horse, the Ayerses can feed six llamas.

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