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When it comes to farming hemp plants, alpaca manure is as good as gold—at least that’s what Brent Facchinello, co-founder of Miraflora Naturals, an organic hemp farm in Boulder, says.
Located on the land of one Colorado’s oldest homesteads, Miraflora was founded in 2019 by a trio of Colorado natives—Facchinello, his cousin Christopher Wynne (a Papa John’s pizza franchise founder), and Kimberly Beekman—who, upon deciding that organic hemp would be their primary crop, wanted every element of its production to be as natural as possible.
“[The farm has been] organic since the 1800s,” says Facchinello, who is also the chief operating officer of the 160-acre, USDA-certified organic farm. “We wanted to find the most sustainable fertilizer and didn’t want to truck it in. We discovered that alpaca gold was the most nutrient rich option out there.”
So they brought in 10 furry friends to help: Jackson Hole, Merlin, Burrito, Oskar, Explorer, Ting-go, Talisman, Percy, Poisson, and Irish Whiskey. Facchinello, whose background includes a role on Molson Coors’ innovation team, bought Miraflora’s alpacas from Red Granite Ranch in Northern Colorado and quickly became known as “the alpaca whisperer,” as he goes about his day feeding, walking, and grooming the alpacas.
“Brent comes around in his buggy [to feed them], and it’s like Pavlov and his dogs,” says Beekman, who is also chief content creator for Miraflora. “They all come over like he’s a magnet.”
To help share their mission to stay organic—and the stories behind their adorable tenants—Miraflora even gave the animals clever backstories, courtesy of comedy writers David Young and David Stassen, who have contributed to likes of the Mindy Project, the Tonight Show, Saturday Night Live, and Carpool Karaoke, and are Wynne’s personal friends. For example, Merlin the alpaca is described as a straight-up conspiracy theorist; Irish Whiskey as a party boy; and Jackson Hole, a total mess who worked at a Sonic drive-through but has “never held down a job for more than a couple weeks.”
The animals—who will typically live to a ripe old age of 25 years old—eat 1.5 percent of their body weight every day in hay and grass. They also enjoy munching on apples, which grow on the farm, as well as pumpkins and carrots. Aside from bringing a dose of cuteness to the operation as they roam freely on their own 10-acre plot, however, their real contribution is less glamorous: droppings.
The farm uses drip irrigation to conserve water, and Facchinello concocts a tea of sorts with the alpaca manure and other organic materials that the soil is lacking. Much like cats, alpacas use the same area for a toilet, each producing roughly 1,500 pounds of manure per year. This makes it easy for collection. The droppings are put into a bag, mixed into the water tank and applied to the hemp plants as needed.
Alpaca fertilizer is rich in nitrogen, which helps produce thriving hemp plants from which full-spectrum CBD is extracted and used to make products like Miraflora’s sports drinks (their most popular item), recovery balms, dog treats, and more. Sam Long, an Ironman champion from Boulder, firmly believes in the product’s relaxation and recovery benefits. “I drink the sparkling drinks after every workout,” he says. “They really do help me decompress. And after a race, taking a bath with a bath bomb is like going to the spa.”
Another product in high demand: CBD pet treats, which Miraflora sells in two varieties and has donated thousands of bags worth to local animal shelters in the past year. “There’s no placebo possible with the dog treats,” Facchinello notes. “I know a 15-year-old dog who started sleeping through the night for the first time in years after several days of using it. I’ve heard dog stories from so many people, that the CBD treats are changing their lives.”
And it’s all thanks to the alpacas, who are now giving back to the farm in another way by contributing their wool for the cause. Facchinello’s mother will be the first to crochet with the material, and Miraflora hopes to launch alpaca wool-based clothing and accessory items in the near future.
“They symbolize the lifestyle of the brand,” Facchinello says of the furry friends. “They’re all about having fun. They’re agile, nimble and can run super fast. They recognize people and are a lot smarter than anticipated. It’s been great getting to know them.”