Humble Beginnings

Sleepy Hollow Farm was founded in 1932 by Cindi’s grandfather, Fuller Cochran. In 1993, Randy and Cindi Beavers realized they would one day be faced with the choice of either saving Cindi’s grandfather’s farm from developers, or moving there and honoring his legacy. Her grandfather had purchased the 40 acre farm in 1932 for six hundred dollars. It took him ten years to pay it off using a one ton bale of cotton per year (worth about sixty dollars at the time) to satisfy his indebtedness. It required most of the farm’s acreage to produce this cotton that he grew and bartered, leaving only a small piece of the farm for growing the food for her grandfather and his family.

To Randy and Cindi this dedication was priceless. There was only one choice to make, move to the farm! This proved to be a significant challenge since neither Cindi nor Randy had any farm experience! However, they were answering a call in their lives to change, and seek self-sufficiency.

The couple had a long standing interest in traditional medicinal plants, and they were quick to recognize numerous species growing in the wild on their farm. They also became familiar with traditional uses and methods of preparation. In 1996 the Beavers’ decided to develop this interest and committed to a five-year plan to convert the farm into a certified organic producer of medicinal plants. This meant eliminating synthetic chemicals and embracing sustainable production practices. Little did they know the impact this decision would have on their future.

Growing Pains

The first few years of attempting to cultivate the various medicinal plants in open fields were a total disaster. Cindi’s grandfather had told the couple that he had harvested ginseng from the farm so they decided to focus on the forest grown plants such as goldenseal, ginseng, black cohosh, and bloodroot. Of these, goldenseal was an endangered species, yet had great potential for impacting human health. Goldenseal had to be preserved, too.

Insight

After three years of researching crop options and various other factors relating to mid-career transitions they decided to develop their long time interest in medicinal plants and committed themselves in 1996 to a Five-Year Plan to convert the farm to the certified organic production of those plants. They learned to produce several varieties of medicinal plants and a wide range of products from those plants including liquid extracts, soaps, creams, lotions, deodorants, and other personal care items.Sleepy Hollow Farm’s leadership in the area of medicinal plant production has been recognized by the USDA and the National Institutes of Health/National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NIH/NCCAM) through a series of six awards from the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program.

The first project entitled Establishing a Viable Organic Goldenseal Production System for Small Family Farms developed methods for small family farms to produce Goldenseal on currently idle forestland. Goldenseal’s popularity has led to it being over-collected from the wild to the point of being declared an endangered species in 1997. Sleepy Hollow Farm’s research in this area will allow for more profitability for these small farms while at the same time reducing the need for wild collected goldenseal, giving the plant a chance to recover. The second project, Goldenseal, Processing and Value-Added Product Development, has developed the capacity to produce the highest quality liquid goldenseal extract on the market today. The third project, Development of Research Grade Goldenseal is developing a line of goldenseal products suitable for use in NIH funded clinical studies involving various digestive disorders such as acid reflux, stomach ulcers, and infectious diarrhea.