by Sally Colby
When Richard and Donna Larson’s children headed off to college, the couple sold the horses that had been part of the farm and chose a species that both could manage easily.
“I’m a farm boy, she’s a city girl,” said Richard, who grew up on a dairy farm in Wisconsin. “The compromise was to get something small that Donna was comfortable with, and that would allow me to do some breeding and showing.” The Larsons chose sheep, and although Richard hadn’t raised sheep before acquiring Leicester Longwools, he has studied the breed extensively and enjoys working with and showing the best of his flock.
The Larsons’ Old Gjerpen Farm in Culpeper, VA is named after the Gjerpen Church in Norway where Richard’s family farmed for centuries. The farm is currently home to 40 sheep — 20 ewes and 20 rams. Richard admits that it’s an unusual ratio, but there’s a reason. “The Leicester Longwool is a rare breed,” he said. “We have three distinct bloodlines.”
To start their flock, the Larsons purchased Leicester Longwool sheep from Colonial Williamsburg. “They did the original importation (of that breed) around 1990,” he said. “I wanted to close the flock, but in order to do that, I needed diversity.” Williamsburg’s A.I. breeding program involved the use of imported semen that represented the Riverside, Beechwood and Ravenswood bloodlines from New Zealand. Richard was satisfied these bloodlines would allow him to maintain internal genetic diversity. Continue reading
by Sally Colby