What is The Artsy Farmer?
The Artsy Farmer is home to 100 alpacas, a boutique full of artisan and natural fiber products, and the studio of artist Bari Rhys. The farm is nestled in the rolling hills of the Montgomery County Ag Reserve and has been family owned and operated for 25 years. After being closed to the public for over a decade, we are now opening for farm tours, visits with the alpacas, and regular shop hours.
You are welcome to come browse the many products made from our alpacas’ fiber, as well as original artwork and designs by Bari Rhys, anytime during open hours. Tours to see the farm and visit the alpacas require a reservation.
It all started in 1998 when Neil and Jo Padgett, along with their 10-year-old daughter Bari, decided they were ready to take on a new adventure. For former city dwellers, jumping into farm life was a big change but, as it turned out, a rewarding one.
Starting on a small farm in Mt. Airy, MD, they began their learning curve by retrofitting the existing horse barn, putting up fences, and experiencing firsthand that there is no such thing as a “one-man auger”! By the summer of 1999 the first five alpacas arrived, and A Paca Fun Farm had begun.
Shortly after, Bari also started her own breeding program, Paragon Alpacas, and over the next decade both herds continued to grow and gain national recognition. When the joint herd size reached around 80, it was time for more space, and they moved to the farm’s current Montgomery County location in 2007.
Taking all the experience gained from the first farm by trial and error, they put their knowledge to good use to design and build a custom barn and layout. Housing everything under one roof, the new facilities provide comfort and protection to the alpacas and ease for the humans taking care of (or visiting) them regardless of the weather.
Both Paragon Alpacas and A Paca Fun Farm are now household names within the alpaca industry, consistently taking top awards at shows and selling their stock to high-end breeding programs worldwide.
In addition to the rewarding experience of building an internationally-recognized breeding program, farm life provided an inspiring environment for Bari to nurture her artist side. Whether hand-spinning, felting, or knitting and crocheting, fiber arts were a natural way to combine the natural product produced by the animals with artistic design.
But over the years Bari has also branched out beyond fiber arts to produce visual art in acrylic, pen & ink, and mixed media, as well as work as a photographer and logo/ad designer. She is now a recognized artist with originals and prints brightening homes and offices across the country and abroad. (You can learn more about her artwork on her website www.barirhys.com)
With Jo and Neil easing into retirement, Bari has moved back from the west coast to become a full-time second-generation farmer and artist. Blending her passion for the alpacas and art into one location, The Artsy Farmer provides a place for visitors to experience the beauty of both nature and artistic design.