Feature: Riverwatch Farm
Meet Dave and Shelley Gholson, and the adorable residents of Riverwatch Farm.
If you had asked Shelley just a few short years ago her thoughts on owning and running a family farm, she would have laughed. “Transitioning from a military career to a life on a farm was a dream of my husband’s, but I was initially hesitant about the idea. I preferred the convenience and luxury of suburban living and couldn’t imagine myself as a farmer.” But then, something changed. Shelley visited her local Tractor Supply Co. and came across baby chicks—and as they say, the rest is history.
“The idea of raising a few chickens for eggs and capturing some great photos with my children sparked my interest in backyard chicken-keeping.” Although she warmed to the thought of raising chickens, she believed that once her husband saw how difficult farming could be, he’d give up on the idea. But to her surprise, she fell in love with it.
Today, the Gholsons own a 10-acre farm in King William County, just outside West Point town limits, where they raise Nigerian Dwarf goats for dairy production and show, as well as laying hens that provide fresh eggs for their herdshare program. Shelley says, “This life, which was once my worst nightmare, has become my dream come true. I never expected to become a farmer, but I’m so glad I did.”
After Dave retired from a 24+ year active-duty army career, the Gholsons relocated their family and little goat farm to Virginia. Riverwatch Farm has primarily been a small-scale goat dairy where the farm’s herdshare operation, which began in 2019, gives members access to raw goat’s milk. Riverwatch has also offered pet milk and free-range, pasture-raised fresh eggs. Dave and Shelley raise ADGA (American Dairy Goat Association) registered Nigerian Dwarf miniature dairy goats.
“2020 turned out to be a huge turning point for our farm as we pushed beyond a successful breeding program with proven performance and production records, breaking through into the ever-growing world of agritourism.” Riverwatch launched Bottle Baby Bliss sessions, where visitors can tour the farm and cuddle with baby goats and help give them their bottles. As soon as the local COVID-19 social distancing restrictions were lifted, Riverwatch opened its calendar and Bottle Baby Bliss sessions were completely booked through August.
The Gholsons couldn’t have been more pleased by the response they received, and soon after launching Bottle Baby Bliss, they started the Riverwatch Egg Share program, which became an instant hit. “When you experience your dreams becoming a reality, your vision continues to evolve and new ideas spark new endeavors,” says Shelley. One of these new ideas is Bottle Baby Goat Yoga, which will begin in May 2023 and feature sessions with adorable baby goats and a certified yoga instructor. May 2023 will also bring the start of Riverwatch’s Cheese Share program, where herdshare members can opt-in and pay a labor service fee to have a portion of their milk converted to a variety of flavors of Chèvre (which means goat cheese in French for our friends new to the wonderful world of goats).
Riverwatch Farm has been growing and evolving since it began, adapting to the ever-changing world of agritourism and the demand by visitors for authentic (and unforgettable!) farm experiences. Luckily for us, the Gholson’s passion for their farm is about as authentic as it gets, which is one of the many reasons Riverwatch Farm is a must-see during your visit to West Point and King William County. “We are so thankful to be a part of this amazing community, and look forward to offering more memory-making, on-the-farm experiences with you!” -Dave and Shelley Gholson
To learn more about West Point and King William County's family of artisan farms, check out our Farms page.