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5 Miles East

This Illinois couple raises alpacas and spins their fleece into clothing
Image courtesy of Stan & Janetta Bauer

Stan and Janetta Bauer of Bloomington, Illinois, started out raising sheep on their acreage. They hoped to spin the wool into yarn. But sheep weren’t the perfect fit the couple was looking for. Then a friend suggested they try alpacas.  Stan says twelve years ago, they bought two of them.

"We decided then, ok, we have alpacas, what are we going to do with them? We’ve always thought that the most important part of alpacas was their fiber," he says.

The alpaca herd is up to 13 animals, and the couple processes around 200 pounds of fiber each year. In addition to their own, they also source fleece from the Synergy Alpaca Alliance, which is an association of small alpaca farms. This fiber is spun into yarn, that later makes sweaters, scarfs, socks and other items. Stan and Janetta started a business selling these items by hosting a trunk show at their home.

Today, the Bauer’s market their clothes through their brand name “5 Miles East.” Their products are sold at their annual Trunk Show, Alpaca Farm Days, and a few retail stores in Door County, Wisconsin. Each product comes with a “5 Miles East” tag that says which alpaca the fiber came from, and each person who had a part in creating the individual piece. The tag tells the story of the clothes, which the couple feels is very important.

"We’re not selling yarn, we’re selling our story," says Stan. "We’re not selling clothes, we’re selling our story. We have our story on every piece of clothing.  And that’s what people are buying. People come out here because of our story."

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