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Welcome to the online information center for the 2022 Suri Network Board of Trustees Election! Here you will find information on each of the candidates running for election, as well as an outline of the electronic voting process.  More information on how and when to vote will also be emailed directly to each member by Simply Voting, the organization managing our election process.

This year we have four candidates running for a total of two openings on the Suri Network Board of Trustees.  Beth Sheets, Liz Vahlkamp, Laurel Shouvlin, Patty Hasselbring, and Michelle Pressler will be returning to the Board. Laurie Findlay and Karl Heinrich's terms are ending. The 2022 candidates for the board election are Karen Ball, Randy Brealey, Nikki Griffith, and Ted Ritschard. 

The electronic vote will open on or around May 16th, and all votes must be cast no later than June 1st.  Results will be tabulated and announced with the results of the Suri Fleece show and then sent to members by email in early August.  Look for an email with voting directions soon!

Candidate Questions/Position Requirements

Candidates were asked to answer the following questions in their candidacy statement:

    1. What do you feel you bring to the Suri Network Board that would enhance and strengthen the Suri Network's support of Suri breeders?

    2. If you had one sentence to summarize your potential contribution to the Suri Network, what would it be?

    3. What would you like the Suri Network to look like in 3 years and how will you help it get there?

    4. What is one strength of the Suri Network that you feel should be built upon and how can you help do that?

    5. What is one challenge that the Suri Network faces and how do you believe you can help to address it?

The expected duties of a potential Board of Trustees member can be found here: Trustee Position Description


Photo by M. Morack

My name is Karen Ball, along with my husband, Russell Ratti, we operate Heart & Soul Alpacas. My husband and I have cultivated a fully supporting alpaca business for the last 12 years. We raise both breeds of alpacas and although our areas of interest have fluctuated over time we have or are offering services in shearing, agisting, mentoring, fiber processing, breeding, educating, compost cultivation and agritourism.


The original lure for my interest in alpacas was for the benefit of my children. We have raised 5 children in the industry, all have learned to build fence, fix pipes, shear an alpaca, show, assist with birthing, drive a truck and trailer, operate a tractor and I could go on and on. This industry was the best educational tool I used for raising my children.


In addition to the Suri Network I am a member of AOA, Alpaca Breeders of the Rockies, MOPACA and CABA. I served on the Calpaca board for 4 years, 3 of which I served as president. I also served on the AOA board for 2 and one half years but resigned for health reasons.


I am fully invested in the alpaca industry. I have educated myself on the genetics of both breeds of alpacas in order to improve my herds with each breeding decision. I have taken classes on sorting in order to better understand the fiber, what we are breeding for and why. I attend halter shows across the country, participate in fleece shows, and engage in educational programs to better build my business and improve herd health. I am very passionate about the alpaca industry and I love to share this passion with anyone who is interested.

  1. I bring experience as a board member from 3 other boards, The Chamber of Commerce in Grass Valley, CA, Calpaca (The California Alpaca Breeders Association) and the AOA board. I have learned a  lot being on these boards. I have learned that it takes a certain mind set to be able to set aside your personal agenda for the sake of what is in the best interest of the organization's goals and their members. I believe I have the kind of mind set to support the Suri Network's objectives and goals.  I was on the Calpaca board for 4 years and served as president for 3 of those. I was honored to be part of such a well organized and productive board with great accomplishments including holding 2 profitable shows. I think I do a good job at listening to the concerns of members and fellow board members with the desire to implement a cohesive plan for success. I have also learned a lot about my own strengths and weaknesses. I will not make a good secretary as I am terrible at taking notes. I am good at implementation, follow through and rallying others to support.
  2. Since I have been raising alpacas full time for over a decade I feel I have a good understanding of what is needed to make our industry successful.
  3. I would like the Suri Network to be fiscally stable with the ability to support its members with programs that will improve the breed and the success of the breeders.
  4. One of the strengths I have benefited from are the programs SN supports such as the fleece show, SHIP and Suri Simply Stunning. I would like to see these programs continue and if elected I would do my best to support that effort.
  5. I believe the biggest challenge in the Suri industry at the current time is cultivating a new buyers market. I think we need to challenge ourselves as an organization to think outside the box to encompass marketing to a larger crowd. One example: I am a huacaya breeder (there are a lot more of us) who became a suri breeder through falling in love with the characteristics of the uniqueness of the breed. I believe that closing the separation and gap between the breeds would be in the suri breeders best interest. I encourage my fellow huacaya breeders to look at my suris and I try and educate them on the fleece qualities. From a processing point of view, having both breeds to blend with is ideal. However, when we ran our mill, huacaya breeders did not want to blend with suri and suri breeders did not want to blend with huacaya. I believe we should start re-defining the perspective of, how do the 2 breeds compliment each other, rather than one being better than the other. 


Thank you for considering me to serve on the Suri Network board. We have been breeding Suris since 1998. While Beth and I started with both Suris and huacayas, we have been exclusively Suris for at least 10 years now. Our herd peaked at about 265 alpacas and is currently at 64. Chelsea Farms was intended to be a full time endeavor from its inception. Prior to starting this career, I had been in the land development/construction industry for 25 years after 10 in computing centers. I have served 2 terms on AOA’s Judges Training and Certification Committee and several terms on the board for the Alpaca Association of Western Washington and am a current member of the CABA Affiliate.  I also was a board member for the entire lifespan of the Alpaca Western Extravaganza alpaca show, jointly organized by 6 western US AoA Affiliates.Non- alpaca organizations include a Chamber of Commerce Downtown Development Committee and 2 terms on the board of a Regional Affordable Housing Coalition consisting of a county and multiple cities to assess and develop housing and grant programs.
  1. I have been breeding Suris since before Suri Network was formed and joined shortly after it was formed, so I have a historical perspective on the development of our organization and industry, both for alpacas in general and Suris specifically. While we haven’t participated in many shows recently, we have, at one time or another, shown Suris in almost every major, and many smaller, shows for 20 years.
  2. We love this life and love to share it, and I will bring that enthusiasm to every activity I have on the Board.
  3. A current search for member farms on the Suri Network website lists 260 members. There was a time when that number was near 800 and, with the growth in the number of Suris and Suri owners, I believe we should be making a concerted effort to expand our reach to non-member Suri owners and raise our membership level to prior highs.
  4. Suri Network is a unique body as a national breed-based affiliate vs a regional multi-breed group and has played a significant role in the advancement of the alpaca industry as a whole. Suri Network members and Boards have been at the forefront in achievements to gain the recognition of alpacas as a valid livestock industry. That vision and the dedication are major strengths of Suri Network that we need to continue to foster. SN has developed a menu of great services and support for its members that I would move to spread to a larger audience.
  5. The rarity of the Suri relative to the numbers of Huacayas has been a challenge since the original importation of alpacas and, although AOA makes a fine effort to include Suris n their promotion materials, it is still an uphill battle to get the public recognition of the Suri breed. AOA statistics show approximately 600 Suri farms, 2000+ Huacaya farms and 400 with both. I think an effort to encourage AOA Suri owners to become SN members and for Huacaya breeders to add Suris to their alpaca business plan could be a prime target market to help expand the number of Suri breeders and Suri exposure – hey, they are already sold on alpacas, let’s get them involved in Suri Network!


Thank you so much for the honor of being a nominee for the Suri Network Board of Directors. My name is Nikki Griffith; my husband, Collins Griffith, and I purchased our first alpacas in 2003 while living in southern Arizona. In 2006, we relocated with our herd to eastern Washington State and currently have a small breeder suri herd of about 10 females, two herdsires and assorted cria. Since joining AOA and its affiliate PNAA, we have been active members of the halter show committee for the popular PNAA Showcase. Currently I work with the Education Committee, having just finished our second 4-part winter webinar series; and this year our farm will host PNAA’s annual 2-day Education Conference; additionally we will host the 1st IFA Fleece Show offered by an affiliate; and I am a past president of the PNAA board. I enjoyed my recent work with Suri Network Product Development committee as fiber is one of my first loves.

I still work full time and I have been working full-time in private practice as a commercial real estate appraiser consultant for 40+ years except for a 15-year stint as Senior Vice President for Bank One (now Chase Bank) managing the real estate collateral valuation function of a $20 Billion portfolio on a national basis, with responsibility for a staff of 75 persons. Part of my private practice since retiring from Bank One included teaching senior level bankers and bank regulators on a national basis about real estate lending. My current client list includes financial institutions, municipalities, counties, port districts, attorneys, accountants, etc.  My volunteer work for a number of non-profit organizations over the years gives me a unique perspective in working together.

  1. I have a passion for education about everything alpaca and in particular, suri alpaca; my 20 years of experience in teaching large groups gives me a strong basis for education in a variety of settings.  My work experience in both corporate and small business management provides a broad understanding of how organizations of all types best function, both for profit and non-profit.
  2. My strong suit in management was to be able to solicit feedback from all stakeholders on pros and cons of necessary management decisions, brainstorming solutions, and then reaching consensus.
  3. I believe Suri Network could benefit from growth in both membership and prominence; providing opportunities for its members to develop and learn how to effectively mentor new breeders, in order to retain them in membership.  As an educator and curriculum designer, I have skills that can be utilized to assist in developing those programs.  AOA has been successful with its affiliate program; perhaps SN could regionalize existing and prospective new farms on some type of basis that could come together periodically for education and fellowship, whether online or in person to strengthen membership. 
  4. Suri Network is the premier organization for suri alpacas in the United States; would like to see the organization grow on a global basis.  Any educational programs developed here would likely work abroad as well.
  5. The alpaca industry in general faces challenges from within as there are multiple different business models that can be practiced.  There should be a way to encourage all business models, whether seed stock production, fiber production, or hobbyist.  I would enjoy working to explore those differences to see how all could work together for the good and growth of the industry.



Hello, my name is Ted Ritschard.  My wife Julie and I have been working to improve Suri alpacas and the business of raising them since 2008 when our first animals arrived at our B I Bar Ranch outside Colorado Springs, CO.  The B I Bar brand has been used since the late 1800’s to represent quality animals produced by the Ritschard Family.  As a small breeding farm of 10-15 breeding females, Julie and I have created lines of quality animals recognized in the ring, introducing us to clients across the country, and launching enduring friendships.

My professional background includes being a Civil Engineer specializing in transportation issues.  I have worked the last 30 plus years in the western United States planning and designing transportation infrastructure and building consulting businesses. Much of my work is in long range planning, listening to communities about their goals, and defining programs to get them there.  These businesses require strategy development, marketing, and managing significant business enterprises to profitability and sustainability. I have built such practices in multiple cities across the west.

Over the last several years I have volunteered on Suri Network committees to produce the “Suri, Simply Stunning” brand, and helped pursue trademark registration.   During this effort I facilitated development of the graphic theme, created educational and background materials on branding and brand marks, conducted webinars sharing our progress, and helped develop the process for managing the mark.  I have also been a show volunteer in Colorado, Kansas, and Nebraska as a ring steward.  Witnessing the amazing work done by show volunteers, judges, breeders, and exhibitors is more than a fair trade for helping keep the ring safe and moving.

I believe my experience would be an asset to the Board of Trustees.

  1. a) I understand the Suri Network must continue to evolve to serve current and emerging needs of its members. b) A practical approach and creative thinking – My background in engineering and marketing demonstrates an integration of the pragmatic and the innovative. c) Experience in the work of the Suri Network – I have been a volunteer assistant with shows and with the branding committee.  I believe both are important to our members to create sustainable operations. d) I am a communicator – As a transportation planner, it is vital to my success to hear your goals and shape a program to meet them.
  2. I will work diligently to enhance a Suri Network toolbox tailored to the needs of its members, to create new markets for animals and fiber, and attract new membership in a sustainable future for the Suri alpaca industry.
  3. The next three years are critical to the Suri Network.  We have invested in a tremendous toolbox to help our members.  We need these investments to be connected into an integrated strategy focused on supporting members and the Suri alpaca breed.  I would like to see more cohesive communications to align internal strategies and enlist external partners.  Every tool we have needs aligned and used towards a common purpose, to maximize and grow our resources.
  4. The Suri Network gets things done!  We differentiate ourselves and our animals from the generic alpaca. a)  Suri Symposium b) Suri Herd Improvement Program c) Suri fiber harvesting code of practice d) Suri Breed standard  e) “Suri, Simply Stunning” branding f) And much more!   I can help with continuing to get things done to differentiate the Suri alpaca. My background in building businesses is about identifying, creating, and leveraging differentiators. I am both pragmatic and creative in developing tools to implement and communicate these tools.
  5.  The biggest challenge the Suri Network faces evolving our approach to create a more vibrant and sustainable future.  The investments we make need to include supporting existing members and expanding our reach to new members.  Revenue streams independent of membership should also be considered to maximize value to members.  To accomplish this, the Suri Network must continue to make investments in branding and positioning Suri fiber as a premium, available, and consistent product.  Suri fiber should be celebrated and the animals that produce should be celebrated.  Both will drive the demand for animals and the benefits to our members.
I welcome your review of my background and responses to your questions.  I am excited to be considered for this position and for the opportunity to work with the Board of Trustees and all our members.

Suri Network
Phone: (970) 586-5876
Fax: (970) 591-0007

P.O. Box 1984

Estes Park, Colorado

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