The combination of lavender fields and sheep may seem odd to some, but it makes perfect sense to Laura and Jonathan Brittingham who own and run, along with their children, Brittingham Farms, a 350-acre parcel in Millsboro. It is a sea of light purple all summer long thanks to strategic planting.
The farm has been in the Mumford-Brittingham family since 1930. The Brittinghams have had strong roots in Millsboro and Southern Delaware since the Revolutionary War, and many of the family’s ancestors are buried in the local Revolutionary War cemetery. The current owners are the fourth generation to operate the farm.
Originally a grain farm, the fields yielded continually rotating corn and soybean crops on unirrigated land. In 2019, Laura and Jonathan decided to change that approach with the introduction of a water source, the lavender and even a distillery used to create essential oil varieties of lavender for making candles, soaps, and beauty products among other items. It was a business decision that had to be made to survive and thrive.
Sadly, small family-owned grain farms are dwindling all over the region, according to Laura, but the family is determined to reinvigorate theirs with new offerings to keep it current and viable. “We are determined to educate our children and our community about the importance of preserving Delaware farmland and instilling an appreciation locally for our farming community,” she says. “We are a teaching farm, and we relish any chance to spread our love of the farm lifestyle to all who visit.”
The family has only recently opened the farm to the public. To create awareness, Laura and Jonathan orchestrated their recent Lavender and Lambs outdoor event. It drew more than 700 people and featured several demos revolving around wool spinning and the many things that can be done with lavender. But there is no need to wait for a special day to enjoy the surroundings. The farm and its country store are open Monday through Saturday from 10 am to 5 pm. Considerate it a pleasant partial day trip with friends and/or family.
A highlight of the farm is the herd of Leicester Longwool heritage breed sheep. According to the farm’s web site. George Washington was the first to bring the Leicester Longwool sheep to the American Colonies prior to the Revolutionary War. Apparently, he valued their very course, long curly wool which were used to make cloaks and bed blankets in early America, and he wrote about the Leicesters in his farm journals at Mount Vernon. The breed inhabits Mount Vernon and Colonial Williamsburg today but there are only 100 or so breeders across the United States, including Brittingham Farms.
One sheep, in particular, is Laura’s favorite, and she says she takes him everywhere she goes. His name is Charlie.
The country store on site sells a variety of lavender and wool related products including the wool itself, soap, balsamic vinegar, and stuffed animals that look like sheep. It also stocks food products like eggs and even ice cream. Laura and Jonathan also sell lavender to restaurants whose chefs use the herb in their creations.
“When you visit you will get a genuine glimpse of what it takes to operate a farm,” says Laura enthusiastically. The former Washington Redskins (now Commanders) cheerleader exudes the effervescent energy that it takes to run a farm. Her passion is obvious, and she probably gets it from her father. He is a farmer too.
Thanks to Pamela Aquilani Photography for providing all these beautiful photos and doing such a stunning job of capturing the overwhelming natural beauty of this local treasure!
By Mary Jo Tarallo, Guest Journalist
Mary Jo Tarallo spent much of her career in public relations with various non-profits and spent 40 years involved with the ski industry as a journalist, public relations director for a national trade association and as executive director of the Learn to Ski and Snowboard initiative. Prior to her ski industry involvement she worked for the Maryland International Center in Baltimore and United Way of Central Maryland. She won a Gold Award for TV programming for a United Way simulcast that starred Oprah Winfrey. She has been cited for her work by numerous organizations. Mary Jo grew up in Baltimore, attended the University of Maryland.