Bay to the Beach

Fuzzy times at New Groove Alpacas in Middletown

By Laura Walter
Posted 3/8/24

Some vestiges remain of the farmland that is now a neighborhood. Amidst all the houses, an older red barn overlooks a thawing farmyard, snow at the edges, mud in the middle, and grass that will …

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Bay to the Beach

Fuzzy times at New Groove Alpacas in Middletown


Some vestiges remain of the farmland that is now a neighborhood. Amidst all the houses, an older red barn overlooks a thawing farmyard, snow at the edges, mud in the middle, and grass that will return in spring, to be pawed up by the tall fluffy creatures that trot over at the sound of visitors.

They hope you brought snacks.

Finding an alpaca farm in a residential zone is an unexpected delight in Middletown, Del. Curving down those precut roads and mailboxes, you come upon a small sign that indicates the presence of New Groove Alpacas, down one particular driveway. At the gift shop, owner Bonnie Bieber welcomes guests, hosts farm tours and gives a rundown of the herd: males to the west, females to the east.

Bright sunshine cut through the brisk temperatures as Bieber led me around the quiet pond toward the male enclosure.

“C’mon boys!” Bieber called, and after a few moments, a bunch of five-foot alpacas and one tall dark llama trotted over in a bundle, furry and curious.

They approached from all angles, friendly and examining, so the names and stories for each creature started to shuffle in my head. Medium-sized brown, friendly rose-gray, or fluffy white juvenile with an adorable round snout.

Their clefted upper lip examined my palm, looking for treats. These “gentle grazers” have top and bottom teeth in the back for chewing, but up front, their grin shows jutting bottom teeth and a soft palate on top. With three stomachs, they are a cud-chewing species.

Alpacas rarely make much noise. Mostly, the necky creatures emit a humming sound when they’re stressed or communicating. Especially on the farm, “They’re a very docile animal,” Bieber said. “They’re more like a cat than a dog. They’re very aloof.” Their bulbous, beautiful eyes gently gaze at everything.

In some cases, multiple generations have lived on this farm, as Bieber has purchased some, helped deliver others and fostered more. She’s with them at every stage of their lives, from successful and unsuccessful mating to the some-360-day gestational period to the births, sales and deaths. So, she’ll answer any question you throw at her unflinchingly, as farmers do, about the biology of life and death, or how to weave alpaca wool into yarn.

She also reviews the safety rules: yes, you can pet the soft, tall necks; no, don’t touch the back half of their bodies, since a swift backwards kick is one of their few defenses; and watch out for the one critter who can’t always differentiate between thumbs and treats.

Their cozy, durable wool is the stuff that dreams—and very soft gloves—are made from. (Yes, there is a gift shop.) The two breeds produce different fur: Huacaya, the thicker crimped fluff, and the Suri, with long, silky smooth locks. Alpacas originated in South America and are part of the camelid family.

Bieber’s path to farming started with a throwaway remark from a colleague. After a rough staff meeting at their previous corporate job, that person mused that ‘You should just quit this job and raise alpacas.’ The idea stuck. The business name, of course, comes from a children’s movie beloved by Bieber’s own kids.

Since about 2018, Bieber and her husband’s farm has grown to about 30 animals, including the herd of alpacas, one llama, two horses (boarders), three alpacas belonging to Bieber’s mentor and a few dozen competition show ribbons.

Each spring, alpacas get their annual haircut, as Bieber brings a professional shearer to harvest the wool for processing at a regional fiber mill. Prime wool is woven into knitting yarn, while secondary fibers become other projects.

The shop carries a variety of gifts made from alpaca fiber, including skeins of yarn from the New Groove animals (names and details right there on the signage!), locally handknit winterwear, plus socks, gloves, figurines and other general alpaca wool accessories.

Several types of tour are offered at precise times, with different levels of interaction (see website for reservations and fees). Non-guided tours let you stand outside the pen to feed apple-flavored horse treats to the animals. Guided tours allow you a pasture visit. Then there are nature treks, where each guest leads a harnessed alpaca on a walk around the property (more like guiding a horse than guiding a dog, Bieber said).

The farm is available for special occasions, like birthday parties, field trips, scouts and more. People can rent the farm for photo shoots, or even hire a pair of New Groove animals to travel for a special appearance at a wedding, birthday or other photo op occasion. New Groove hosts various events, like annual festivals, plus paint days, pumpkin carving, yoga and even Alpaca 101 (animal husbandry for anyone wanting to learn how to care for alpacas).

New Groove Alpacas is located at 216 Acorn Drive, Middletown, Del. For more information, call (302) 757-4431 or visit

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