With no initial experience and little in the way of examples to follow, Linda Shanahan and her husband, Eric Vander Hyde, took a nutrient-stripped sod farm in Doylestown and transformed it into a thriving certified organic herb farm and education center. Barefoot Botanicals, located on Decatur Street in Doylestown, specializes in medicinal and culinary herbs for use in aromatics, medicinal uses, cooking and cocktails!
“There was little evidence of life when we first came to the site in 2004,” says Shanahan. “It was very quiet. No bees; no pollinators.”
Shanahan went to work on healing the site bringing in nutrition in from local compost sources and horse farms. She created wetlands and planted hundreds of trees, shrubs and native plants. Shanahan works to build the soil through cover crops, crop rotation, and additions of compost. Her first crops in 2009 were vegetables, which Barefoot Botanicals sold to local markets. Over time the farm transitioned to herbs.
“I had a base of knowledge that I wanted to expand,” says Shanahan, who went on to pursue formal herbal training and now teaches herbal education at the farm.
Barefoot Botanicals sells dried herbs, herbal simple syrups and farm-distilled hydrosols/aromatizers on a retail and wholesale basis. Products are available at the farm, online at barefootbotanicals.net as well as markets such as Doylestown Food Market. The farm also supplies herbs to brewers and distillers as well as chefs, bartenders and restaurants.
Shanahan says she has moved away from essential oils because of the unsustainability of the process. In her distillation workshop, she demonstrates how many plants it takes to get a small amount of essential oils.
The farm offers a full season herbal intensive which meets monthly starting in April. Shanahan and other instructors offer hands-on instruction in plant propagation, identification, ecology, herbal ethics, and medicine making. Herb tours are available as well as workshops on permaculture, gardening, bee keeping, bread making, equipment repair and more.