Original article and photos submitted by Laura Prellwitz.
Kevin Stoer is a fourth-generation farmer still operating part of the homestead that’s been in his family since the 1880s.
After emigrating from Germany, his great grandfather, Joe Stoer, married neighbor Mary Margaret Goedjen. Her dowry of 13 acres of land is where the couple built their wheat farm and raised 10 children. When Joe died at 54, his 14-year-old son Walter took on the responsibility of running the farm. Walter dropped out of school after the seventh grade–but made do with the life and business skills learned from his dad. Walter eventually moved from growing wheat to raising dairy cattle, which helped the farm survive the Great Depression as he sold eggs, butter and milk to Two Rivers residents. He loaded up a horse-drawn wagon with milk cans packed in river ice and went downtown ringing a bell to signal his arrival. The ladies came out of their homes with jars, and he ladled the milk into their containers.
In the early ’40s, a bottling plant was built on the farm and milk was pasteurized. Delivery routes were established and bottled milk was delivered by truck to homes in Two Rivers and Mishicot. During this time, Walter married Viola Schmoock and they had one child, Russell (Kevin’s father), who took over the farm in the ’60s. The bottling and delivery business was a successful enterprise until the ’70s when customers turned to buying their milk at stores. The Stoer Dairy couldn’t compete with the prices, and the delivery routes were dropped. The family built a store across the street from the farm where customers could drive in and buy their dairy products; a real novelty! It closed in 1995, however, and the building was torn down in 2018.
Kevin is a lifelong resident at the farm and worked in all aspects of the farm business in the multi-generational setting. He has two brothers and an older sister, two of whom reside in the area and continue to be engaged in agriculture.
After high school, Kevin went to the University of Wisconsin-Madison and earned a Bachelor’s degree in agriculture education with an emphasis in animal science. Additionally, he earned a Master’s degree in educational child psychology from UW-Milwaukee. He taught agriculture in the Mishicot and Green Bay school districts, and later went on to become a school counselor and student services department chair at Green Bay West High School. He retired from teaching in 2009. He has served as FFA adviser in the Mishicot and Green Bay school districts, and coached two farm business management teams to state championships. Kevin is founder of the 4-H Alpaca/Llama Project for Manitowoc County, as well as founder of the Mishicot Marvels 4-H Club. He initiated an FFA alumni organization in Mishicot and is an active member. He is a former Milkhouse Superintendent for the Wisconsin State Fair, and is the current superintendent for alpacas/llamas and goats at the Manitowoc County Fair. Kevin also judges a variety of livestock and crops at county fairs around Wisconsin.
As far as dairy farming, Kevin decided to go a different direction.
“I didn’t want to raise anything I would have to butcher,” he said. “Those days were done for me.”
He researched other livestock and came upon alpacas, which at the time were a new import animal from primarily Peru, Chile and Bolivia. Alpacas are related to llamas, but have different characteristics which appealed to Kevin.
“They were bred not to be animals of labor,” he said, “but for the fineness of their fiber.”
More positives: they don’t require a lot of space, and are well conditioned for cold weather. Kevin began networking with Wisconsin alpaca owners and in 1996, with the purchase of eight alpacas from Chile, renamed his farm LondonDairy Alpacas.
The farm has housed as many as 125 animals, but Kevin has determined that 50 is a good, manageable number. Five or six babies–called crias–are born annually, and a few adult alpacas are sold to people who meet Kevin’s qualifications.
“I enjoy being home and sitting and observing them in their pens or out in the pastures,” Kevin said. “They’re curious and expressive.”
The former teacher realized educating people about alpacas is a big part of owning them, so began offering interactive public tours.
And when knitting and spinning experienced a resurgence in popularity, Kevin remodeled the former milk bottling plant on the property and re-opened it as a gift store in 2002 to sell yarn and fiber for handicrafters.
The farm usually employs four part-time workers to do farm chores, cleaning, feeding, and other maintenance projects. A few volunteers also help with tasks.
The farm continues to expand its outreach to the public. It operates an active website and Facebook page. In addition to participating in and sponsoring sanctioned alpaca shows through the Alpaca Owners Association and the Great Lakes Alpaca Association, LondonDairy holds many social events, including some that support local nonprofits such as the Two Rivers Ecumenical Food Pantry and Wildlife of Wisconsin. Kevin also hosts an annual 10-day tour to Peru. And the farm recently acquired a liquor license and sells boutique South American wines, and many of the social events include wine tasting. The Alpaca Threads and South American Wine Store features items made in the USA, Peru and Ecuador. Items include blankets, socks, gloves, mittens, hats, sweaters, capes, scarves and more–all made with the fleece of alpacas, of course.
With a large pole building for indoor activities and plenty of outdoor seating, it’s a great venue for private events.
Guided tours are available by appointment March through October. Several coach bus travel services make LondonDairy a featured stop on their itineraries. School groups often visit LondonDairy for field trips. Kevin also conducts an annual Alpaca Basics Clinic to those new to or considering alpacas.
“While they are wonderful animals to raise, they do have several specific physical and medical needs, so potential owners should educate themselves as much as possible prior to purchasing and owning them,” Kevin said.
LondonDairy is a vendor at public events like the Wisconsin State Fair and other shows. Kevin and the alpacas have even been featured on several television shows.
The ranch is truly a full-spectrum agri-tourism enterprise.
“I think Great Grandpa Joe would be very impressed,” Kevin reflected.
His vision for LondonDairy Alpacas: honor the property’s history and embrace the future.