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1818 Farms in Mooresville, Alabama

1818 Farms in Mooresville, Alabama
1818 Farms in Mooresville, Alabama

After Natasha McCrary’s then-8-year-old son fell in love with Olde English Babydoll Southdown sheep at a petting zoo, she did what any supportive mother would do: She leased 3 acres of land from her mother-in-law and started a farm with chickens, fruits and vegetables, and (of course) four of her son’s beloved sheep. “I wanted to start my own business and teach our kids about sustainability, how to live off the land and give back more than you take from it,” she says. What started as a family activity in 2012 has evolved into 1818 Farms, a multifaceted business based in Mooresville, Alabama, but reaching people near and far.

The property is planted with heat-loving annuals, including celosia of the ‘Flamingo Feather’ variety and marigolds.

HECTOR MANUEL SANCHEZ


The evolution from passion project to national brand was organic. “Everything we started making came from my own unmet needs,” says McCrary, who began developing bath and beauty products like cuticle balm and lavender goat’s milk bath tea to improve her own skin. “I was looking for products with simple ingredients that worked, and I knew we should share them with our customers.” From there, the growth and creativity never stopped.

Today, 1818 Farms’ collection includes everything from its signature shea cream to its room spray. Flowers have also become a cornerstone of their business. A few years after launching their bath and beauty line, they transitioned from primarily growing produce to exclusively growing flowers, which gave them new ways to connect with their community, both locally and across the country. From drying flowers for dyeing to pressing them for products like scented wax sachets, saving and selling heirloom seeds, and selling fresh stems through bouquet subscriptions during the growing season (as well as dried bunches in the fall), there are a number of floral options. “We use everything we grow,” she says—a tall order considering they harvest 15,000 blooms annually. They also welcome visitors with events like Fresh Flower Friday and farm open houses, which are posted online (1818farms.com). “We want to educate others about how to get out into nature, get to know your neighbors and the land, and make art out of it,” McCrary says.

Exploring the farm

“I think the main thing people appreciate about coming here is that it feels like they’re stepping back in time,” says McCrary, of Mooresville, which is about 20 minutes from downtown Huntsville. The historic town was founded in 1818, which is reflected in the farm’s name. “I think people want experiences, not just things. They come here to see what we do, from dyeing scarves to creating bouquets to learning how to make wreaths.” For those who can’t come by, she also offers seeds for purchase online as well as a video workshop series that teaches people how to start their own cut flower gardens at home.

The flowers are dried before being used for dyeing because fewer dried stems than fresh ones are needed to achieve equally rich colors.

HECTOR MANUEL SANCHEZ


From field to fabric

“I always ask myself, ‘What can I do new that inspires and excites me?’ And I think that’s what keeps our business fresh,” says McCrary, who has been dabbling in natural dyeing during the COVID-19 pandemic. “Botanical eco-printing has given me an outlet for creativity, but it also fits with everything we do here with sustainable practices and zero waste.” Each scarf is unique, as foliage leaves and plants from the property are hand-laid onto prepared damp textiles to form different shapes and patterns.

The silk is then dyed with pigments from flowers grown specifically for dyeing (including cosmos, goldenrod and marigolds) and steamed to absorb the colors. “You never know what you’re going to get,” says the grower. “No two pieces are the same.”

How to dry flowers

  • Use first cuts.”“The biggest mistake people make is not drying them immediately after cutting,” says McCrary. “We don’t dry anything that’s been sitting in water.”
  • Store them protected from light. “That’s what causes the flowers to wilt,” she says. Hang the bunches in a dark place with a dehumidifier to draw out the moisture.

HECTOR MANUEL SANCHEZ


Tips for storing seeds

  • Let them ripen on the plant. “Wait until the flowers have finished flowering and are starting to shed seeds, then place them in a place with good air circulation to dry,” she advises.
  • Clean and store them. After shaking the plant to release the seeds, remove all shells and husks. Store the seeds in a cool, dry, dark place.

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