Weary of large class sizes, a "teach-to-the-test" philosophy that stifled creativity, and the lack of nature and movement found in the public elementary school that their sons attended, parents Erica Lucier and Emily Paterson set out to create a new educational experience for students in the Northern Virginia area. In December 2013, the two neighbors founded the River Farm Cooperative – the first daily, parent-owned, teacher-led cooperative program in the DC area. The cooperative was named after George Washington's River Farm, chosen because the co-founders' homes were located on the site of the first president's farm of the same name, because they admired the founding father's innovative thinking, and because the words "river farm" evoked a focus on nature that would be pivotal to the co-op's philosophy. After eight months of intense planning and preparation, the co-op opened its doors in September 2014 to a single, mixed-age class of 13 students. The following year, the co-op doubled in size, splitting into two mixed-age classrooms (the Upper Elementary class and the Lower Elementary class) led by two teachers. In 2018, the cooperative expanded to include a mixed-age Middle School class.