24 Hours With Natasha McCrary of 1818 Farms
“Early in my career, a longtime farmer gave me a piece of advice: he told me you can’t be weak and be a farmer,” says Natasha McCrary, who, along with her husband, Laurence, owns 1818 Farms in Mooresville, Alabama, located just outside of Huntsville. Since 2012, when the McCrarys first welcomed animals to their farm, she has learned the full meaning of those words. “For a farmer, weakness is more than being unable to perform necessary physically demanding tasks. Weakness is being unable to overcome the unforeseen daily challenges you are faced with and cannot control,” she explains. For McCrary, those challenges can encompass an unusual lambing, inclement weather affecting crops, or problem-solving on the business side of the 1818 Farms Bath and Lifestyle Line. Here, the farmer, business owner, wife, and mother of three takes us through a typical day in her life of performing lamb checks, planning flower plantings, discussing product samples, and more.
2:30 a.m.: Yes, you read that correctly: I am up in the wee hours of the morning headed to the barn for a lamb check. It is lambing season at the farm, and I want to ensure that our lambs arrive safely. We have a few ewes who are delivering for the first time, and you never know if they will accept or reject their first lamb. It is good to be present at delivery so you can coach the new mama to nurse and accept their new lambs or assist if there are any problems during the delivery. I have assisted in many deliveries over the years when a lamb isn’t presented correctly, and a few occasions when the lamb is simply too large. If you had told me 10 years ago that I could pull a lamb, I would have laughed. How times have changed! No one is in labor, so I head back home for a few more hours of sleep.
6:00 a.m.: Time to officially begin my day. I do a quick check of the barn cameras, or “lamb-cams,” we have set up to view at our house, and see that no one appears to be in labor. Next it is time to wake up the kids for school. They need to be out the door no later than 7:15 a.m. to arrive in time for classes to begin. I confirm that lunches are packed, and that we know everyone’s schedule of after school activities. Once the kids are on their way, I grab a protein shake for my morning meal. I am not a breakfast person, but know that I need to eat something in order to have the necessary energy for the day ahead.
7:30 a.m.: I spend the next hour feeding our menagerie of animals. The farm is home to 17 Southdown Babydoll Sheep, 3 miniature pigs, 50 hens, one goat named Farrah Fawcett, 5 barn cats, and 2 Great Pyrenees livestock guardian dogs. Morning chores include feeding and refreshing water for our farm family. Today, a local garden club is arriving mid-morning, so the animals are moved to their assigned areas for the educational portion of the farm tour.
9:30 a.m.: The tour group arrives. Our team spends the next hour educating them about life on the farm and the importance of sustainability. Guests learn the benefits of pastured raised chickens, why our hens lay a colorful palette of eggs, the history of our rare breed Southdown Babydoll Sheep, how our wool is processed, the importance of livestock guardians, and the role of our three little pigs at the farm. We then move to the horticulture portion of the tour, during which we discuss garden preparation, planting, harvesting, and arranging flowers.
11:00 a.m.: Our tour group departs the farm, and it’s time for our farm team meeting to discuss plans for the day. Over the weekend I designed our 2019 flower garden planting guide, which will serve as the planting road map for the next six months. By creating a detailed planting guide, based off days to harvest, we will have two succession plantings for many of our cut flower varieties, allowing us to extend our growing season into late October.
After talking through the planting guide, I discuss the summer schedule for our Flower Truck appearances. Our Flower Truck was introduced last year, and has helped us achieve our goal of bringing fresh cut flowers to the community and launching our “seed-to-vase” initiative. After the meeting, our team begins planting the 3,500-plus flower plugs that must be in the ground over the next three days.
12:30 p.m.: After a busy morning at the farm, I am ready for lunch. I need to arrive in Huntsville at our corporate office no later than 1:45 p.m., so it’s a simple sandwich and fruit for me. I quickly check my phone messages and emails to make sure nothing requires my immediate attention from our suppliers or corporate office team. I also check the refrigerator to make sure that I have all the ingredients to prepare tonight’s dinner. When you live in the country and there isn’t a grocery store or a restaurant nearby for a quick dinner, all meals must be planned in advance. Once I’ve confirmed I have everything I need, I hop into my car for the 25-minute commute to our corporate office.
1:45 p.m.: After arriving at the office, I check in with our team. We are in the process of testing new scents for our popular Shea Crème. Product samples were given to wholesale accounts for testing and feedback, and our team will be reviewing the feedback and compiling the comments. It’s important that we identify a scent that compliments the existing Shea Crème scents, but doesn’t cannibalize an existing fragrance in the line (many customers currently have their favorite scent).
2:30 p.m.: Our team reviews the projected product numbers for 2019. In order to produce the needed inventory, we must submit a purchase order for our Shea Crème jars, which take up to 3 months to be produced and silk screened. Once we receive the jars, our production schedule will be set for the third and fourth quarters.
3:30 p.m.: Time to pick the kids up from school and head to after school activities.
6:00 p.m. I arrive home for the evening and make a quick barn check of the pregnant ewes. Lily has separated herself from the flock and is showing early signs of labor. I head back home to prepare a quick dinner so that our family can eat prior to evening chores and a possible long night in the barn.
7:15 p.m.: My husband and I head down to the farm for evening barn chores—everyone needs to be fed and tucked in for the night. Lily is in confirmed labor. I move her into the lambing stalls and wait with her for labor to progress. I set up my cot in the stall in case it turns out to be a long night.
8:50 p.m.: Lily is beginning to nest in the straw bedding in her stall. She is uncomfortable and continually trying to find a spot to birth her lamb. Finally, she lies down and begins to push. Her water bag has broken, which means she will more than likely deliver her lamb within the next fifteen to thirty minutes.
9:25 p.m.: Lily delivers a set of twins. Luckily, both lambs present themselves normally at birth and I do not need to assist during their delivery. A normal delivery presentation is when the lamb’s two front feet appear first with the lamb’s head resting between them.
10:30 p.m.: Lily and her lambs are doing well. She has cleaned them and bonded. The twins are already walking around the stall and successfully nursing. This is Lily’s third time to lamb, and she is always one of our most attentive mamas. I head back home to prepare for bed. In just a few hours I will need to be awake for another 2:30 a.m. lamb check—we still have five more ewes left to lamb.