Betty Mitchell grew up raising lambs and cattle for 4-H and helping on her grandparents’ farms in Southern Virginia, but she always wanted to have a farm of her own. “Farming is grounding,” Betty says. “It helps sort priorities and connect you to the cycle of life.” When she and her husband, Brian Richardson, toured Highland County on a weekend break from city life in Richmond, she fell in love with the county.
A few months later, Betty and Brian purchased and moved into Cress Farm and its famous barn. They brought two sheep with them and with help from their neighbor Conley Colaw, they grew their flock. Today, under the watchful eye of their border collie sheepdog Gracie, they manage about 40 sheep. Nearby, their two Icelandic horses, Sadie and Kveld, keep her horned Dorset ram company.
Cress Farm sheep have free range on the infamous cool weather grasses found in the Blue Grass Valley. The pastured lambs are raised without antibiotics or hormones. The lamb is locally processed at Alleghany Meats, just a few miles down the road. Her lamb is available in the area at County Convenience in Blue Grass, the Highland Farmers Market, or by appointment. It has been served at The Highland Inn, Taste of Highland, and Maple Festival dinners.
Betty and Brian love opening their farm to friends and helping them connect to where food comes from. “I think it’s so important that people continue to work with their hands,” Betty says. “We have friends from Richmond who have never been of a working farm or watched an animal being born. They are fascinated and I’m always happy to have extra hands at lambing time.” By day, Betty helps preserve farming traditions and promote local producers in the area through her work as the Executive Director at The Highland Center, a non-profit working as a catalyst for cultural and economic development based out of Monterey, Virginia. When Brian is not helping Betty run the farm and maintain fences, he can be found working on his electric motorcycle which recently set a world record for its cross-country trip across the US.
Betty Mitchell and Brian Richardson