The town of Mooresville, Alabama, can trace its origins back to 1818—a full year before Alabama even became a state. However, it was 2011 when the farm named in tribute to that year began in earnest. On a family vacation, Natasha and Laurence McCrary’s then-8-year-old son, Gamble, became enamored with English Southdown Babydoll sheep while visitng a petting farm. Afterward, the sheep were all he could talk about. “He wanted to have one, he wanted to sell the wool, he wanted to sell the manure—he has always had an entrepreneur’s mindset,” says Natasha. It seems that the apple doesn’t fall far from the family tree in North Alabama, and soon Natasha was researching the sheep herself and thinking about how she could raise them at their farm just outside of Huntsville. “It became a family project,” she says. But the Babydoll sheep were just the beginning of the pastoral adventure. “We started with the sheep and then added raised beds and backyard chickens,” says Natasha. “The produce took off, and soon we had restaurants asking to buy from us. It just grew organically from there.”
Through a lot of trial and error, paired with the family’s keen business sense, farm life evolved. “We now focus our gardening efforts solely on flowers, with over 11,000 flowers growing on the farm,” says Natasha. “But we realized that a small business cannot rely on just one revenue stream, especially with a farm. When a frost hits the garden, you still have to bring in some income to feed the animals. So that is how the whole 1818 Farms bath line was born.”
At the 1818 Farms production facility in Huntsville, a line of Kitchen-Aid stand mixers aerates batches of skin saver while workers make cuticle balms, place labels on linen sprays, and package up the coveted beard oil. Natasha shows off some dried flower wreaths she is producing. Her zero-waste policy is clearly in place as she points to craft-paper cones filled with dried petals, or “wedding confetti” as she likes to call it.
Just last fall, Natasha was honored to receive the Woman-Owned Small Business of the Year award as part of Amazon’s first Small Business Spotlight Awards program, besting more than 1,300 other nominees. Not only does this additional outlet expose her products to more consumers, but also, as part of her award, Natasha will have her own designated Amazon marketing representative for a full six months. At the rate that her business is growing, it won’t be long before everyone has fallen in love with those Southdown Babydoll sheep, just as much as Gamble did. Just don’t ask Natasha to part with one of them. They are permanent 1818 Farms residents—and reminders of where it all began.
About those Precious Sheep
Southdown Babydoll sheep originated in Southdown, England, but were brought over to this country in the 1700’s for their prized wool and meat. (The McCrarys do not eat their sheep, whom they care for like pets.) In the centuries that followed, cross-breeding produced less-desirable results, and the breed was almost lost. By the 1990’s, there were fewer than 500 sheep left. Committed to preserving the breed, the McCrarys are vigilant with their sheep, who are now glorified lawnmowers. They still get sheared once a year, and visitors are invited to come for the event (see website for details). Natasha has future plans for turning the wool into an affordable item that customers will love.
The McCrarys host visitors at the farm each spring for sheep-shearing day. (Try saying that 10 times fast!) Other events on the farm include calligraphy workshops, wreath-making classes, and bloom-strolls through the garden. Details can be found online or by following the farm on Instagram: @1818Farms.
Everyone loves to be pampered with products from 1818 Farms. Ladies especially like the scented signature shea cream and linen spray, while the men go for the beard oil and cuticle treatment. Products and gift boxes are available on the 1818 Farms website (1818farms.com), as well as on Amazon’s “Handmade” website: amazon.com/handmade/1818-Farms
Ceasing produce production was a business decision for Natasha. As she says, “Flowers are a luxury item. Very rarely will you have someone dispute the price of a flower, whereas you can go to market with a beautiful heirloom tomato and customers will haggle over the price. It is a very strange concept, but it’s true!” Now the farm boasts more than 11,000 blooms. Varieties include Lisianthus, Ranunculus, Anemones, Zinnias, Gomphrena, Celosia, Amaranthus, Strawflowers, Snapdragons, Sweet William, and Rudbekia.