Local alpacas make their debut in a Christmas movie directed by Petaluma

Sonoma’s Lavendar BnB farm is home to nearly 20 alpacas, two of which were featured in a Brooke Shields vacation movie that was filmed in Petaluma over the summer and will be released on HBO next week.

The tranquil farm is also a popular Airbnb and home to Andrè and Yas Castro, who have taken the estate from dry earth to a local destination.

The film

Holiday Harmony is a Christmas film produced by prolific Petaluma filmmaker Ali Afshar and stars Blue Lagoon star Shields as a small town mechanic. Afshar, founder of ESX Entertainment, has made a name for himself as a producer of other locally filmed films such as A California Christmas and its sequel A California Christmas: City Lights.

The film happens to have an alpaca subplot, and that’s where Andrè and Yas Castro came in.

According to Yas, her cousin, who knew director Shaun Paul Piccinino, recommended her alpacas for the role.

After seeing photos of all the alpacas on the farm, Pedro and Napoleon, the two snowy, all-white animals, were chosen – Pedro as the star and Napoleon as his understudy.

Andrè borrowed his neighbor’s horse trailer and drove the couple to Petaluma for two full days of shooting over three weeks.

There was a pen on site for the two alpacas to rest during their off-screen times, and Napoleon only managed to escape once.

“They were very curious,” said Andrè. “I would say Napoleon was the one who was a little more stressed.”

Pedro’s big moment on set came with a scene where one of the actors had to dodge to avoid hitting him while he was standing in the middle of the street.

“He made it the first time,” said Andrè. “They were really impressed by that.”

Although acting came naturally to the animal stars, two eight-hour days of shooting were enough for their time in the spotlight and for Andrè, who had to be on-site with the couple at all times.

“I think there are people who will only watch the film for Napoleon or Pedro,” Yas said.

The alpacas

There are a total of 19 alpacas on the farm – four adult boys, two little boys and 13 girls.

According to Andrè, Napoleon and Pedro should actually be distributed to different pastures on the farm. Like a real understudy, Napoleon can get jealous, to the point where he spits on Pedro. And while the feisty Napoleon has made numerous attempts to become the alpha male of the pack, that title belongs to Maverick, one of their smaller alpacas.

“He’s the smallest of the four, but he’s the boss,” said Andrè.

“We’re really novice breeders, so alpacas are so easy to care for compared to other animals that require more care,” Yas said. “They were both our therapy animals, as if each of us needed therapy, so they helped us.”

While the alpacas don’t cause too much trouble for the Castros, they’ve had their glitches.

Napoleon and Pedro broke into the girls’ stable one night this year and got her pregnant. The Castros didn’t know until weeks later when a vet came and told them Summertime and Danza were pregnant, and then they remembered the night the boys broke in.

“Unfortunately, this is just a natural process,” Yas said.

Now they have Mando and Grogo who are both just 3 months old. A few of the other girls are currently intentionally pregnant and the number of alpacas on the farm will soon be in excess of 20.

“I think we’re actually at the limit because there are already pregnant women and there are some who have had babies. We just want to make sure they have enough room to roam – that’s our big thing, we won’t be cramming them into small areas. I need them to run and play, and they do,” Yas said.

The farm

The Castros moved to the Bonness Road property in 2018 after briefly moving to Vacaville while waiting for the right piece of land to come up on the market.

After meeting in Portugal, where Andre is from, they got married and decided to move back to California a little over a year later. Yas is from Rohnert Park and has family in Santa Rosa.

It took the Castros nearly two years to fully refurbish the farm, which had no animals or agriculture when they arrived. Their original idea was to create an oasis of calm for vacation rental guests to visit.

They started by planting tons of lavender in front of the property for its calming and relaxing properties, but the rest of the property felt far from finished.

“It felt lonely having a big country with nothing,” Yas said.

They started buying cattle and soon the animals became an integral part of the farm experience. They made a living by helping to fertilize soil that was previously just dry dirt and weeds. The couple now have over a dozen sheep and two goats, all of which are miniatures. Chickens roam around the property as they please, sporting countless colorful feathers.

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