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Sonoma’s Lavendar BnB Farm’s alpacas to premiere in Christmas movie ‘Holiday Harmony’ with Brooke Shields

The Christmas movie, starring Brooke Shields, hits HBO Max next week, but you can visit Pedro and Napoleon anytime at Lavender BnB Farm.|

Sonoma’s Lavendar BnB farm is home to nearly 20 alpacas, two of which starred in a Brooke Shields’ holiday 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 took the property from dry dirt to a local destination.

The movie

“Holiday Harmony” is a Christmas movie produced by prolific Petaluma filmmaker Ali Afshar, and features “Blue Lagoon” star Shields as a small town mechanic. Afshar, founder of ESX Entertainment, has made a holiday-themed name for himself as the producer of other locally shot films such as “A California Christmas” and its sequel “A California Christmas: City Lights.”

The film happens to have an alpaca subplot, which is where Andrè and Yas Castro came in.

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

After seeing photos of all the farm’s alpacas, Pedro and Napoleon, the two snowy, all-white animals, where selected — Pedro as the star and Napoleon as his understudy.

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

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

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

Pedro’s big moment on set came with a scene where the one of the actors must swerve to avoid hitting him as he stands in the middle of the road.

“He just nailed it the first time,” Andrè said. “They were really impressed with that.”

Though acting came naturally two the animal stars, two eight-hour days of filming were enough for their time in the spotlight for now, and for Andrè, who had to be onsite with the pair the entire time.

“I think there’s people who are just going to see the movie for Napoleon or Pedro,” Yas said.

The alpacas

There are a total of 19 alpacas at the farm — four adult boys, two baby boys and 13 girls.

According to Andrè, Napoleon and Pedro actually need to be separated into different pastures on the farm. Like a true understudy, Napoleon can get jealous, to the point where he will spit on Pedro. And while feisty Napoleon has tried multiple times to become the alpha male of the pack, a title that belongs to Maverick, one of their smaller alpacas.

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

“We’re really rookie farmers, so, alpacas are so easy to keep compared to other animals that need more maintenance,” Yas said. “They were both of our therapy animals, like each of us had a need for therapy, so they helped us.”

Even though the alpacas don’t stir up too much trouble for the Castros, they’ve had their mishaps.

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

“Unfortunately, that’s just a natural occurrence,” 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 of the farm will soon be over 20.

“I think we’re actually at our limit because there’s some pregnant ones already, and there’s some that had babies. We just want to make sure they have enough space to roam — that’s our huge thing, we’re not gonna cramp them in little areas. I need them to be ale 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 they waited for the right piece of land to hit 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 almost two years for the Castros to fully renovate the farm, which had no animals or agriculture when they first arrived. Their original idea was to create a tranquil oasis for vacation rental guests to come and visit.

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

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

They started buying livestock, and soon the animals became an integral part of the farm experience. They earned their keep, helping to fertilize the ground, which was previously just dry dirt and weeds. The couple now has over a dozen sheep and two goats, all of which are miniature. Chickens roam around the property as they please, sporting a myriad of colored feathers.

“They helped us learn new things,” Yas said. “It got us more into natural living.”

The Castros home is completely chemical free, as is all their farming. They even use essential oils from the lavender and other natural sources to treat the alpacas’ ailments and infections.

According to Yas, the couple became interested in the alpacas natural fibers, and now sell all sorts of artisan goods made from their soft wool, such as socks, beanies, dryer balls and blankets.

They have all sorts of alpaca themed souvenirs that they sell out of the new off-the-grid gift shop that Andrè just finished building, another addition to the never-ending series of property projects. The money they make from the gift shop and their other services goes back into improving and sustaining the farm.

“It actually evolved as we kept going cause we got more into it,” Yas said. “We just got fascinated with the animals and what they produce.”

Both Andrè and Yas both work other jobs outside of farming. Yas is a realtor at RE/MAX Gold Real Estate in Sonoma, and Andre builds custom industrial barn doors.

The couple also runs a side business where they help people move from California for Portugal by finding them housing.

Yas also does photography, and a popular service they offer are their farm tour and photo session bundles. There’s a wide variety of shoots that vary in price depending on time of day, group size and what animals people want to feature in their pictures.

The BnB

The Castros opened the Airbnb portion of the farm experience toward the end of 2019, and have been steadily booked ever since.

The guests stay in a home that the Castros rent that connects to their property. The current cost is $691 per night, and space fits a group of up to 10 people, but smaller groups also commonly rent the space.

According to the Castros, nearly all of the guests they’ve had in the past three years have been from the Bay Area, who come for a weekend getaway to relax and, of course, be around the alpacas.

“People love the alpacas,” Yas said “They can literally hang out in the hot tub and the alpacas will be hanging out with them over there, and the sheep of course.”

The Airbnb has a rating of 4.96 out of 5 stars, and over 150 reviews raving about the property and the alpacas.

Interested individuals can visit the farm’s website at alpacasonoma.com to learn more about the farm tours, photo shoots, the Airbnb and the farm animals.

“Holiday Harmony” will be available on HBO Max starting on Thanksgiving Day on Thursday, Nov. 24.

Contact the reporter Rebecca Wolff at rebecca.wolff@sonomanews.com.

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