Welcome to River Ridge Farm, the home and workplace of a few hard-working families, some beautiful countryside, and a whole lot of cows.
River Ridge is located in Grayson County, Virginia, near the North Carolina border. The New River runs right through the heart of the county and through River Ridge Farm.
Follow along below for a virtual tour.
We are dessert-first kind of people on the farm, so we're going to start the tour right. The view from the top of the ridge is humbling even to those of us who see it all the time.
Breezes blow year-round up here, and even in the dead of summer, it's still a comfortable place for a weary soul to find peace and perspective.
A short walk along the ridge top from the view above is Decision Rock. This is where Brantley and Whitney sat to contemplate the job offer to come work at River Ridge. On this rock, where their children now sit, they talked about their vision of having children and raising them on the farm.
Now Decision Rock is where we all go when facing a tough decision.
River Ridge is home to two 250-year-old log cabins. One was moved to this location from Stone Mountain when Philip and Charlotte Hanes donated land there to build a park. The other was relocated from a nearby site in Grayson County.
This photo shows Turk's Cap lilies in all their glory.
The families around the farm love to gather at the cabins for special occasions. Charlotte often leads the children in various antics, like war painting with local poke berries.
Monarch butterfly season is always a thrill. The children often bring the gold-filagree lined chrysalis inside and place them in bird cages so they can protect the sacs, watch the monarchs break out, then release them outside. Since monarch chrysalis are tempting treats for birds and other predators, this helps ensure their survival.
Because of our commitment to conservation and sustainability, every acre of River Ridge Farm has been evaluated to assess its optimal use. One aspect of this is responsible timber forest management. However, non-timber forest products are an often overlooked source of farm income. For us this includes mushrooms, wild herbs, nuts, berries, foliage, medicinal plants, and fuelwood. Here Charlotte is showing off some Morel mushrooms from the farm. And Mister is wondering if the flower-like Chanterelle mushroom is really edible (yes, Mister, it is).
River Ridge Organics represents the sweet side of our farm operations. Growing organic berries takes a lot of patience and creativity; making it a sustainable business takes even more!
We rotate berries in different stages to extend the harvest.
We string special ribbons (seen in video) that make a bird-deterring woo-woo-woo sound to keep pests at bay.
We host beehives nearby to pollinate the berry plants.
We irrigate the berries using mobile pumps that draw from the New River, which runs adjacent to the berry patch.
We turn seconds (fruit unsuited for fresh market) into delicious shelf-stable products like jams, syrups, and freeze-dried berries.
Learn more about our organic berries and how we grow them.
Deer are a blessing and a curse on a farm. They are beautiful, but their eating habits can be destructive. To ensure balance in the farm's ecosystem, River Ridge has a partnership for wildlife management that allows controlled seasonal hunting.
Our St. Croix Hairless Sheep are big crowd-pleasers on our farm tours, especially around lambing season. We raise the sheep for breeding and for consumption (shhhh.... don't tell Tiny!).
River Ridge is a full-time working farm, so on a tour, you're likely to see our Herdsman, Cory, moving cattle, breaking in horses, or even doing some farrier work.
Cow genetics is a specialty of River Ridge. By intentionally breeding the best cows, we can help ensure important qualities like resistance to heat and disease. Cattle health is our top priority because healthy cows produce healthy beef. And as Brantley often says, "I feed this beef to my family, so it'd better be good!"
One thing you can be sure of on a farm: Things Break. Having our own repair shop (and versatile employees who can fix just about anything) saves us a lot of money and helps ensure our sustainability.
Learn more about River Ridge Farm's
sustainable farming methods.
You never know who you might run into on a tour of River Ridge. We were visited by some indigenous farmers from Colombia who stopped in to learn about sustainable farming methods on their way to a climate change summit in San Francisco.
Some women from Rachel's Network, for which Charlotte serves on the Board of Directors, hopped down from DC for a farm tour and some kayaking along the New River. That takes us back to the beginning of your tour. Thanks for joining us!