By Lynn R. Mitchell
Francis Chester’s Cestari Farm in Churchville, Virginia. The sign on the silo says, “Nothing is impossible with God.” Mr. Chester, a self-described country lawyer and sheep farmer, is a dedicated member of St. Francis Catholic Church in Staunton. He is also someone I’m proud to call friend, someone who takes up for the little guy and has been squashed on by the big guy.
Cestari Farm won Virginia Living Magazine’s 2013 Made in Virginia Award in the Style category. In publicizing the award, they wrote about this fascinating man:
“When you put Cestari wool to your ears, you can almost hear the sounds of life within it,” says Francis Chester, 77, who fell in love with the agricultural life in 1946 when his family moved from Brooklyn, New York, to a farm on rural Long Island. Chester financed college and law school with proceeds from a roadside farm stand, and when Chester and his wife, Diane, moved to Virginia in the late 1960s, Cestari Sheep and Wool Company was born.
Today, the Chesters and two of their three children operate a sheep farm in Augusta Springs and a second sheep farm and wool mill in Churchville. The mill’s cleaning process preserves the wool’s lanolin and gives Cestari wool its notable luster and durability. “Most commercial wool is cleaned in acid baths, which destroys the lanolin,” explains Chester. The company sells yarn in four weights for hand knitters, crocheters, and hand weavers, as well as wool socks and sweaters hand made or hand machined in Virginia. New this fall is a line of Merino wool throw blankets and baby blankets. Wool $6-$12. Socks and sweaters $10-$129. Blankets $59-$129. CestariSheep.com