There are a pair of socks so soft you’ll never want to take them off. No matter sunshine or snowfall, the pair that always find their way to the top of the pile are made of alpaca fiber.
Even better, the softest socks around are crafted locally. Harvested from their beloved herd of twenty-something alpacas on a farm just south of Fargo, the young couple who owns Ten Seven Acres spin up so much more than just socks with this coveted textile.Embracing the Alternative Down a gravel road in the small town of Galchutt, North Dakota, sits a modest property owned and operated by Dirk and Jessie Monson. Although they both have day jobs, their lives seem to revolve around the everyday challenges of running the farm they recently acquired.
Greeted by occasional outbursts from their rooster, the initial impression given off by the five-acre farm is quite typical. Ducks and chickens roam freely against gusts of wind and a red shed sits tucked behind their matching house. A closer glance however, reveals how unconventional their operation truly is for something in this part of the Midwest. Each day seems to mark the beginning of a new project for the Monsons since they embarked upon a life of farming. Starting with just chickens and ducks, whose eggs they sell to restaurants in the F-M area, it wasn’t long before they were coloring outside the lines of a traditional farm.
“We try to complete the hipster trifecta; vintage arcade games, alpacas, and I drive a fiat,” said Dirk jokingly, referencing a picture of their house-raised alpaca named Barry appearing to play a Pac-Man machine. While Barry doesn’t live in their home anymore, the Instagram photo hints at the kind of shenanigans they get into at Ten Seven Acres. They not only live up to the hippy standard, they’re defying its laid-back convention.
“We embrace it,” said Dirk. “I really think this is an attainable lifestyle for anybody now. I thought we were a little nuts five years ago when we moved out here, but this is a nice balance. At the time I was working for an ad agency as a software developer in Fargo when I said, ‘Yeah, I’m buying a ranch,’ I remember my boss looking at me like, ‘What are you thinking?’”Ten Seven Acres crafts everything from yarn, socks, hats, mittens, rugs and even an innovative, hypoallergenic dryer ball made from otherwise unusable leftover Alpaca fiber. The production of every item they sell begins and ends at Ten Seven Acres. With a start-to-finish mantra that rules every step of the way, the alpacas they raise and breed are central to the local garments they sell.
Roaming a fenced-in area on a cloudy afternoon, a dozen recently-sheared female alpacas lounge around. Their closely trimmed bodies contrast furry faces, looking like bobble heads with bangs. Daphne, half alpaca half llama, is clearly the most curious of the bunch. She wastes no time greeting her new guests.
A fence to the adjacent pasture cracks open slightly and the group of alpacas push to the opening. As Jessie flings open the gate, the eager pack dash out in a flash of lanky exclamation. Several start to graze the grass and another takes a dirt bath. Taller than the rest, Daphne gets a face full of pollen as she chews on some leaves.
“Now you know we don’t actually trim the trees, Daphne just eats them,” said Dirk.
“Yes, they’re great browsers,” Jessie responded. “They don’t just eat grass, they’ll eat leaves and shrubs, but they’re not super harmful to the plants like sheep or goats.”
Of the two, Jessie has the most farming experience. Growing up, her family owned a crop farm operation and she’s always had horses. She had a central part to play in kick starting their alpaca adventure.
“A friend joked that we should get alpacas and we thought ‘Why? What would you do with those?’” said Jessie. “But then Facebook had an ad for two alpacas for sale not too far from here. I went to look at them and thought, ‘These are kind of cool.’ Within a week we were totally in love and it slowly grew from there.”
All In A Name As the alpacas forage the pasture, Fred the mini horse strolls by in a nearby field. He’s somewhat of a celebrity at downtown Fargo’s Red River Market where the Monsons sell their products and occasionally bring him with. Living alongside Fred are Jessie’s two ex-race horses. They are as much of a formative factor for the farm as the alpacas are.
“I grew up having horses and we wanted a farm for the horses to live in the backyard, which is what started all of this,” said Jessie about their horses named Ten Carat Jewel and Spectrum Seven. While the farm’s address is also 107, the coincidence of the horses’ names solidified the idea of calling their business Ten Seven Acres. “It was kind of meant to be, I mean how could we call it anything else?”
With a hand in every section of production of their products, both Dirk and Jessie bring the do-it-yourself mentality to every aspect of their business. From raising the animals, to hand-dying yarn and marketing their stuff at the Red River Market and on Etsy, nothing slips past the diligent couple. Jessie even processes the raw alpaca fiber they collect during her day job at Dakota Fiber Mill in Kindred.
They also let the alpaca fiber speak for itself. With markers that allow customers to know what individual animal their products came from, every fiber they collect is the result of a unique local environment the materials were grown in. The 115 pounds of fiber collected from their 24 animals this year alone will go on to be cherished by customers across the F-M area for years to come.
“One thing that makes our farm unique is we own it end-to-end,” said Dirk. “We not only breed the animals, but we also process the fiber into final goods either through our milling partners or right here on the farm. This is about as close you can get to a truly local garment from start-to-finish right here.”
Even the garments they don’t directly produce are outsourced to locals who have a knack for knitting beautiful pieces out of alpaca yarn. Simply putting on something made from Ten Seven Acres, you can almost feel the craftsmanship and care put into everything they make. The combination of each fine detail results in products not seeking perfection, but the truth in nature.