Photos by Olga Kulikovsky
Kwoka Farm in Pine Bush hosts photo shoots for everything from Hudson Valley engagements and weddings to holiday cards with its Huacaya alpacas.
The Kwoka family is here to make sure Hudson Valley photo shoots are up to fluff.
Located in Pine Bush, Kwoka Farm is home to a pair of adorably photogenic alpacas ready for their close-ups.
No matter the occasion, the sweet alpacas are the perfect Hudson Valley addition to picture-perfect photo sessions. Because of this, Kwoka Farm hosts family-friendly photo packages for the holidays, weddings, bar mitzvahs, and everything in-between. After all, romantic, Pinterest-worthy engagement photos of couples strolling along the base of the Shawangunk Mountains next to the peaceful alpacas are more than a little dreamy.
Owners Chris and Elena Kwoka are new to the alpaca game in the Hudson Valley, though their love of animals goes way back.
“I grew up in Ukraine and lived with my grandma in a small village,” Elena recalls. “She had a cow, several chickens, and about any other farm animal you would expect. My grandma also worked in the collective farms, so I was around animals a lot.”
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When she moved to the United States, Elena knew she would one day return to her roots. After she finished school — and got married to Chris — the concept of living off the land and connecting with nature again became appealing. The couple dreamt of having a quaint farm for their kids, George and Nicholas, to grow up.
So, they bought a house on two acres of scenic property in Orange County and got to work. Chris picked out a gorgeous corner of the land that offered both sunset and sunrise views to house a barn, and he built a wooden fence. After that, the last thing they needed were animals.
But how did they decide on alpacas? It all started with a pair of socks.
“My husband gifted me this really nice pair of socks; they kept me incredibly toasty and warm. I’ve worn them for probably eight years,” Elena says. “And they were made from alpaca fiber.”
That was the seed. Just after they got set up on their farm, the family bumped into some alpacas locally. Buck Brook Alpacas, located in Roscoe, houses nearly a hundred alpacas in the western Catskills. Elena was surprised to see so many South American mammals living in New York State, and she did some research.
As she discovered, the alpacas were first imported from Peru in 1984 and have since become very popular in the United States. Aspiring farmers can’t get alpacas from Peru anymore, so it can be difficult for anyone to find them locally.
Luckily for the Kwokas, Buck Brook had Clarissa and Sapphire.
The pair of Huacaya alpacas, both girls, were instant additions to the family. Alpacas are best kept in a herd, so the Kwokas wanted to take in a few. Sapphire wears a deep shade of chestnut brown and is only about a year old. The snow-white Clarissa is pregnant and will have a baby of her own in the spring. She has a date to mate again in the future, so the small herd will continue to grow.
Right away the kids got acquainted with their new furry friends. And, other than a few occasions in which Clarissa wouldn’t share the barn with Sapphire — getting her sopping wet in the rain — the two alpacas get along swimmingly.
When Elena’s sister Olga Kulikovsky, a talented photographer, came to visit, Elena knew they had a match made in heaven. An onsite photographer could not only tell the story of a small family farm, but could also use the alpacas to enhance a countryside setting for beautiful pictures.
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Plus, the furriest rabbit you’ve ever seen, an Angora bunny named Buns, also lives on the farm. What could be better to keep you warm during a snow-covered photo session?
Dressed in natural sweaters of their own, Clarissa and Sapphire make for excellent Christmas card or winter wedding photo shoot accompaniments. Plus, alpacas are gentle with children; the Kwokas encourage families to come learn about the beautiful creatures by interacting with them.
“It’s been amazing to have these photoshoots where people can enjoy our tiny farm haven here,” Elena enthuses.
Photo packages start at $50. Family shoots are typically priced at $150 for 30 minutes and include rustic props and tea or hot chocolate by the fire pit.
In the near future, Kwoka Farm will have more than just pictures to offer in the Hudson Valley. When the weather warms up for the season, alpacas have to be sheared just like sheep. Temptingly soft to the touch, the fiber can be processed and made into all kinds of things. Elena works as a teacher and plans to spend her summers knitting things like children’s sweaters, scarves, and, of course, socks out of the soft fleece.
On top of that, alpaca manure is incredibly useful for farming, which comes in handy when the Kwokas begin to plant food. Goats, chickens, and more alpacas are all planned for the future on the farm as well.
Keeping with the local spirit, the Kwokas use as many Hudson Valley products as possible to fuel their little farm. Grey’s Woodworks in Goshen supplied the lumber for the fence and barn. The hay that feeds Clarissa and Sapphire comes from down the road, and it’s CARV’D, a small local personalized slate carving studio, made the farm’s identifying sign.
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Whether you’re looking for a uniquely adorable Christmas card, a unique new profile picture, or engagement photos that inspire wanderlust, Kwoka Farm is the place to be in the Hudson Valley.