So what is this "treading lightly" philosophy all about? Well, it is important enough to me that I named the farm after it – Paso Ligero means tread lightly in Spanish – a nod to the Latin American roots of the alpaca. The alpaca in many ways represents the idea well, almost literally. With their soft-padded feet, they do very little harm to the pastures on which they graze, and graze rather lightly in comparison to many of the more traditional or conventional livestock.
That is what the Paso Ligero philosophy is - living on and being a part of this earth in such a way that we do our best not to harm it or leave any wounds or lasting scars from our passing. I try to live in a symbiotic relationship with the world, taking from it what I need but also giving back to it when I can or at least taking in such a way that the world can recoup what I have taken before taking more. It's an attempt to maintain a balance in my relationship with the world rather than taking resources that this good earth provides and taking and taking until we have simply used it up and the earth can no longer recover what we have taken in between – many term this sustainable living.
It's also perhaps to a greater extent a conscious effort to not "give back" something that was never present on or in the earth before my presence and my work – to avoid inputting harmful chemicals in such forms as synthetic pesticides, fertilizers, garbage that could be recycled, or even residues of things I use daily in my home that inadvertently end up in the ground as they are, for instance, sent down the drain. It is being more conscious of the amount of fossil fuels I burn and the emissions from burning them that end up in the air we all breathe and in our atmosphere.
But treading lightly also means the use of products that encourage the same way of life. Eating organic foods means not only fewer chemical residues entering our own bodies, but it also means supporting the farms that have made the commitment to raise and/or grow those foods in a less harmful way, benefiting the world well beyond ourselves. Fewer chemicals on the foods we ingest mean fewer chemicals that are sprayed, dusted and poured onto the earth and into the air, ending up in our atmosphere and our waters. And what I feel is more healthy for me to ingest I also feel has to be more healthy for my animals. Where possible, I give my alpacas organic or sustainably grown feeds and pastures and by doing so, again, I believe I am ultimately giving them cleaner air to breathe and cleaner water to drink. Though to this point any findings would be considered purely anecdotal, I believe strongly that the lower exposure to chemicals and chemical residues will mean greater health, vigor, reproductivity and fiber in my alpacas.