Alchemy Farms and Plants, LLC
by Marguerite McClintock
December 27, 2022
Crisp, cold weather whips around nipping the tips of noses and fingers as we trudge to the barn this morning to care for animals. If you asked if farming would have ever been a profession in 2007, the answer would have been an overwhelming “no way”. However, in the fall of 2013, Alchemy Farms and Plants, LLC joined Artisans Cove in Hampton Cove, AL. Personally, we should have seen the signs when my homeschooled son wanted chickens.
Our farm came about because of the need for networking and became an outlet and passion for learning, teaching and sharing. It has been quite an adventure!
Our main objective has always been to develop methods and products that can be used in organic systems. So, we get to play a lot with crazy ideas.
We became USDA certified organic in 2013 and specialize in unusual veggies. Then in 2014, I got the crazy idea to use sheep in mowing the grass. I consider myself a lazy farmer. Somehow, I convinced my family that this was a good thing and 12 fat, registered Katahdin ewes joined our little farmstead. Now in 2023, we have Katahdins in one pasture, and Gulf Coast Sheep in another. We won’t talk numbers, it’s not that bad.
In 2015, an opportunity to purchase Flat Rock Growing Company became a reality and we ventured into testing Hydroponics. While the greenhouse is tucked away in storage now, the main system is evolving into aquaponics. This opportunity opened many learning experiences including the ability to sell to chefs locally in Huntsville and Guntersville.
Finally, 2017 brought about HONEYBEES! My son, Robert McClintock decided to join me on one of my educational visits to Auburn University. A very inspiring professor, Geoff Williams motivated my son to raise honeybees! This has really been a true passion for us. Now, we get to work with other queen breeders, visit universities to collect semen and inseminate queens. Every year since 2019, we hold the annual Alabama Honey Festival the first Sunday of October. 2023 will see us at Alabama A&M University since we have gotten too large for our location in Hampton Cove.
My family did not grow up on a farm. Like many of our guests that visit us, we are urbanites. We knew that farming was not easy and most row crop farms, especially for racially disadvantaged producers, the chance for failure is high. It’s easy to dream about the cute little homestead with fresh milk, and fluffy sheep placidly munching on green grass. The idea of eating fresh juicy tomatoes or collecting brown eggs from plump, warm chickens to make breakfast is appealing.
The reality is visiting your livestock 365 days, sometimes multiple times to make sure everyone is well. It doesn’t matter if its wet or freezing or hot. You get to play nurse when you have a sick or hurt animal and your job is to manage and prevent these things from happening. It will happen.
It’s your job to clean the coop and move that nutrient rich poop to the compost pile. Yeah, collecting eggs is fun the first 100x. Hmmm… maybe we can get guests to collect their own eggs?
As a producer, you learn to be pragmatic with a big heart. Your compassion compels you to do the right thing as you try to balance your checkbook, your time and your emotions.
As a professional producer, education and networking has been an important part of our evolution here at Alchemy Farms and Plants. It’s been almost 10 years and it still amazes me how much I still must put into practice what I have learned.
Oh, I almost forgot… the record keeping, bookkeeping, and marketing! What entrepreneur can do without these things! Alabama A&M Small Farms Research Center, Sweet Grown Alabama, Tuskegee and Auburn are my go-to list.
2023 should be an amazing year! Lots of workshops to plan, chicks to hatch, honeybees to split and seedlings to start…
Ahh, just have to put down my hot coffee and run out there to collect those eggs!