Farmhouse Fresh Founder on Saving Animals, Spa Menus, and Sustainability
From seed to spa to skin to rescue.
That’s the way of life for Farmhouse Fresh, a sustainable, skincare brand and animal sanctuary based out of McKinney, Texas. This brand is most well-known for their farm-to-treatments at luxury resorts, but it also creates skincare, body care, and fragrances to use at home. Then, the profits are used to raise money for the company's on-site animal sanctuary and other sanctuaries.
It all started in 2004 when Shannon McLinden, founder and current president of Farmhouse Fresh, invented removable and reusable shoe insoles that could help your feet beat the summer heat.
These insoles quickly grew in popularity, and her customers asked her to develop foot products. Soon after, she developed a foot scrub, which ended up on Oprah’s O List. This foot scrub, and the fact that she also got a request from the Hyatt Hill Country Resort to use it in spa services, helped her realize that her true passion was in developing skincare and bodycare products.
With regards to the insoles, McLinden realized there was a limit to her creativity; but with skincare and bodycare, it was endless—especially as she became immersed in the world of spa.
“I had to learn how spa services were performed, which is very much like [experiencing] a fine nine-course dinner. There’s so much creativity in all of the ways that you can help people experience wellness through the products and their application, whether it’s painted or drizzled. That lit a fire in me,” McLinden said.
She especially likes the seasonality of spa products and developing elaborate spa menus. “You have to think of spa from so many aspects. Within the spa industry, we’ll say, ‘what do we want spring to feel like?’ We want our customers to experience spring, so we start with what we grow in the greenhouse. We got lemon balm, which leads us into a lemon and lavender sleeping mask. We combine the ingredients we’re growing and the feeling we’re delivering through the product, and [think about] how that would later feel on the skin, and how that would wrap on the body. [An example of a Farmhouse Fresh treatment] would be a four or five-step pedicure with hot stones, a wrap, and polish. I feel like a chef and I don’t even like cooking!”
At this point, you might be wondering why a thriving shoe insole business-turned thriving skincare and spa business had interest in establishing an animal sanctuary. Well, for them, it was the obvious next step.
“That was really easy for us,” said McLinden.
“We happened to hire a large number of people for our company who not only had their own rescue animals, but also sat on a board of nonprofits. It’s really something; Rescue Row is a local nonprofit and one of our customer care team members sits on the board. These people work tirelessly during the day, but they are taking care of foster animals at night. Delia McLinden, our Co-Founder and my sister-law, was the head of PR of Paw Chicago. We always had foster animals from these various rescues coming into our space and we thought if we can build a ranch, we can do so much for animals. There’s an endless supply of animals that are neglected and not treated well. We set our heart on building a ranch that was specific to our company where we could grow ingredients, have a groundskeeper residence, have a sanctuary, have our spa, and [have space for] our creative and operations team. It’s a really beautiful environment and we put every detail into it that exudes our brand. People get a kick out of taking a tour; we have bunny bathrooms.”
Of course, the dream office space on a ranch with space to grow their own ingredients and space to home dozens of animals (who may want to eat all of their inventory) was a hard place to find, so they built it from scratch.
Their five-acre site is now the home for dozens of animals, a commercial and residential greenhouse, an event space for spa parties and elegant dinners, and, of course, an office space for Farmhouse Fresh team members. The cherry on top is that the Farmhouse Fresh sanctuary has a PETA Cruelty Free certificate that certifies that they never test on animals.
If you couldn’t tell by their elaborate headquarters, Farmhouse Fresh pays incredible attention to detail. On the packaging of every Farmhouse Fresh product, you can track the batch on their website. For the hand creams in our May boxes, see the directions on the website to locate your batch number. We love that this connects the customers more directly to the causes they’re supporting.
Beyond their own nonprofit animal sanctuary, they also use their profits to help other animal rescues in need, especially in dire situations.
“There are so many organizations that need boots-on-the-ground funding, so we do that to help organizations find animals’ homes.
We’re able to affect so many more animals, every type of animal you can imagine, and save them from slaughter, or heal a leg, or bring them back from starvation, and home them. It’s extraordinary. [This definitely] extends their buyers’ dollars. What I love about it, too, is how fast we are able to put dollars in motion. [For example,] we’ll take 20 percent of sales from the day, and by the next morning we’re putting thousands of dollars into rescues. Typically, most of the money goes towards vet care and it’s awesome to see your dollars go into action. It’s great to be part of a network that cares.”
Originally, Shannon McLinden wasn’t positive that her skincare customers would be as interested in raising money for saving animals as she and her team were. It turns out, they absolutely are. “Most of our audience are compassionate women, ages 25- to 75 years-old. We get emails saying that if they’re ever in this area, they’d love to come and help. There’s a symbiotic relationship between clean beauty and those who give back. I wouldn’t be surprised if they give back in so many other ways. They are super conscientious and really good people of the world. We’re proud to be able to create products that they love.”
Some of Farmhouse Fresh’s most beloved products are also some of McLinden’s personal favorites: the body oil called Agave Nectar, a facial tonic with time-released brightening peptides called Illumination Juice, an exfoliator called Timescape, and a CBD product called Watermelon Aid.
However, making products their customers love is no easy task when not only are they creating everything from the new formula to the press release, but they are also planting the seeds for all of the ingredients to grow on their land. This means they are working 18 months, or more, in advance. So how does a brand stay on top of trends and produce dozens of SKUs when they handle everything from farming to marketing?
“We look at our spa menus. It starts with food, drink, and mood. We think of [our products] like a spa menu and we blend trends with food and drink, and ingredients that we’ve been researching and growing so we have new products. If we can’t find an ingredient locally, we will try to find a way to grow it. We make our products better by keeping supply really tight.”
When we shop for products online or in person at beauty boutiques, the products may be new to you and the store, but we may never know for how long it’s been packaged.
Your new moisturizer could have been filled last week, or last year, depending on the active ingredients, where it was produced, and its shelf life. Unfortunately, as much as you want your beauty products to last forever, the active ingredients may no longer be active by the time you get around to it if you have shelved it for months. With Farmhouse Fresh, you’ll never have to worry about getting an old product that’s been sitting in a warehouse for a year.
“I don’t want to create a product that sits on a shelf; I want you to feel something on your skin. We really try to make sure our actives and extracts are sourced as locally as we can. These are potent ingredients and we don’t want them traveling in containers, sitting off in the ocean, and waiting for two months to get unloaded. For us, fresher is better. That’s the medicine in the product.”