botaniko, stone hollow farmstead

Mother-daughter team Deborah and Alexandra Stone create luxurious, Botaniko skin care products using the plants grown at their Stone Hollow Farmstead in Alabama

 

“When you get the the end of the road, keep going.” I scribble the directions on the back of a receipt, cell phone wedged against my shoulder. I am scheduled to visit Stone Hollow Farmstead in Harpersville, Alabama, the next day, and Deborah Stone, the owner, knows that GPS will steer me wrong. Sure enough, when the long country road abruptly ends, I keep driving, barreling over the red dirt.

Outside the main barn, four Great Pyrenees lumber out to greet me, like friendly polar bears lost in central Alabama. Deborah and her daughter, Alexandra, come out as well, with a cat trailing behind. We are meeting to discuss Botaniko, the plant-based skin care line that the mother-daughter duo produces on the property.

The farm’s 80 raised beds of flowers and herbs are the crux of the operation, so we hop in a golf cart to take a tour. The setting is bucolic to the point of disbelief. Sheep graze on the hillside, cows chew grass in the pasture, horses gather near a lake. “Oh, look, a new baby goat—how exciting!” exclaims Alexandra as we round a corner to see a mother goat and her kid. “Was it born a few days ago?” I ask. “A few minutes ago,” says Alexandra with a laugh.

botaniko, stone hollow farmstead

A bucolic scene at Stone Hollow Farmstead

This heightened sense of vitality on display at Stone Hollow (which also operates a crackerjack creamery, cannery, and Community Supported Agriculture program) is central to the philosophy behind Botaniko, which aims to harness what the Stones call the “power of the plant” with the best science in skin care. The line is small-batch, meaning it is handmade, hand-poured, and hand-distilled on the property. In other words: fresh, clean, and healthy.

Deborah began her career as an aesthetician, opening one of the country’s first day spas in 1989, which gave her exposure to the best treatments and product lines. After selling her business, she bought the farm, wanting a place for Alexandra to ride horses and a place to grow herbs to make her own products. “I tell everybody I grew up at the right time,” she says. “Having prior knowledge from the day spa and working with the best of the best, like Trish McEvoy, made me feel like this was my destiny.”

Scenes from Stone Hollow Farmstead and Botaniko

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botaniko, stone hollow farmstead
Alexandra Stone preps geranium leaves for distillation. All Botaniko products are made on the farm.
botaniko, stone hollow farmstead
A bouquet of bee balm ready for processing
botaniko, stone hollow farmstead
Botaniko’s small-batch approach allows the Stones to make sure every product is exactly right.
botaniko, stone hollow farmstead
A bucket brimming with dahlias
botaniko, stone hollow farmstead
A bee makes the rounds at Stone Hollow Farmstead.
botaniko, stone hollow farmstead
Labels on Botaniko bottles ready to be filled
botaniko, stone hollow farmstead
A bottle of Botaniko's hydrosol, which Deborah Stone calls "a living water."
botaniko, stone hollow farmstead
Alexandra Stone walks through the labyrinth of 80 raised beds at Stone Hollow Farm­ stead harvesting flowers to distill for the all­-natural skin care line.
botaniko, stone hollow farmstead
Botaniko can be found in retail shops, like this one in Birmingham, or online at BotanikoSkin.com.

Even with her professional advantage, starting a line from scratch wasn’t easy. It took years to get the formulas right. “At first when I was working with chemists, I didn’t like the answers I was getting,” recalls Deborah, who says they seemed more concerned with cost than quality. “I came home from these meetings in New York and California completely frustrated. The chemists were telling me to do it differently, but I said I’m going to make what I want to make.” What she wanted to make was products derived from herbs and flowers grown from organic seeds planted on her own property. “I was figuring it out on the fly,” she says. “Thank God for Google! I melted mixtures in the microwave. I bet I threw out 50 gallons before I got a certain product right.”

“The beauty is, Mom,” interjects Alexandra, “you’re not afraid to ask questions. You’ve never been inhibited in that way.”

Since the line debuted in 2003, it has grown to 180 products and attracted a clientele who see quick results and lasting value in its creams, cleansers, and essential oils. “There are no fillers, no synthetics in our products. There isn’t even water,” says Deborah. “We replace water with hydrosol—a living water we distill from herbs and flowers. That’s what makes our solutions so powerful.”

botaniko, stone hollow farmstead

Petals ready to be macerated to extract essential oils.

botaniko, stone hollow farmstead

Deborah trades garden shears for a white coat to mix product in the farm’s lab.

Relying on botanicals to heal, restore, and revive is an age-old practice, but new appreciation of small-batch artisans and a yearning for natural products make the Stones feel that Botaniko’s moment is especially ripe. “Now is the time,” says Deborah.

botaniko, stone hollow farmstead

Learning from her mother’s decades of experience in the skin care business, Alexandra handles front office duties like marketing and design. “But the gardening is fun,” she says.

With a sprawling farm and a burgeoning skin care line, Deborah and Alexandra seem poised to embrace the future. “We complement each other,” says Deborah. “Alex is a little more subdued; she helps me stay grounded. She listens, then processes, then comes back with a plan. I’m more of an “Oh, let’s forget the plan” kind of person. I break a lot of stuff before I get things right.”

Together, with talent, brains, and a farm’s worth of goodness to pour into each bottle, the Stone women forge ahead. Like a driver in uncharted territory, when the paved road ends they step on the gas and keep going.


By Kirk Reed Forrester | Photography by David Hillegas

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