You can find Hepzibah Farms at 432 Hepzibah Road in Talladega, AL. But don't use your "smart" phone for directions or you'll end up getting fairly irate about how "exit 140" is actually exit 158...which is an 18 exit difference...just saying. Remember when we actually used to use maps? Anyway, when you think of Talladega you might think of race cars - Nascar and all that. Before I went out to Hepzibah, I always just thought of my favorite of all favorite rescue dogs, Kobi Mullins Carlisle. I found him at a tin can animal shelter in Wedowee, AL which is in Talladega County. He was so covered in red Alabama clay dust that I thought he was a redhead husky. Perhaps not the best place to be a husky without a home, but pretty country nonetheless. Lots of lakes, a National Forest, good looking Alabama land.
Hepzibah Farms planted its first seeds in November 2011. Six friends wanted to start a farm. And so they did. They wanted to dig in the dirt. Learn to live off the land. To watch her bare fruit. Tend to her. Labor over her. Plant. Water. Sweat. Weed. Till. Sweat. Harvest. Sweat. Gather seeds. Plant again. And on and on. They wanted feed themselves and others. AND grow pretty flowers to sell to flora nerds like me.
I ran into to Katie and Charlie at the farmer's market in Birmingham's Pepper Place. There were lots of farms selling lovely zinnias, cosmos, flowering basil and the like, but I was most impressed by Hepzibah's offerings. It's not just that their bouquets are so sweetly assembled, it's the flowers themselves. As growers, they have developed a certain aesthetic. Their flowers are particularly dainty and feature a very distinctive, rich color palette and subtle variations in petal structure that I had not seen before at the market. I know...nerd alert - I just said petal structure. Seriously though, as a floral designer and photographer I instantly connected to their aesthetic and asked them if I could come out and take photos of the farm.
Note: do not wear glittery slip-on shoes when you go to a farm. It is likely that you will end up ankle deep in an ant bed at which point you think to yourself - why didn't I put the boots on that are sitting in the front seat of my car? I felt like Kim Kardashian on a field trip which was horrifying.
After touring the farm, I got to hang out on the porch and have beer with Katie and Charlie. I was really impressed by how genuine and earnest they are about their vision for the land. I also enjoyed hearing their stories about what led them to become sustainable farmers. It was kind of them to take the time to talk to me that friday afternoon as they were preparing to harvest for the farmer's market on saturday.
While they dispersed to work I roamed around and took photos of everything I could. They had built a beautiful greenhouse with one wall made from glass bottles and cement. The seedlings looked beautiful, the soil so rich under the filtered greenhouse light. I must admit that I got a little preoccupied photographing all the farm animals. Two dogs, two pigs, two cats, a goat, a family of pheasants and too many chickens and roosters to count. I think I took like 80 photos of that goat. Not to mention the pigs. The thing is, I've just recently fallen in love with the 85mm f/1.4 lens, traditionally used for portraiture, and those animals just really seemed to want their portraits taken. Total hams, those pigs (...sorry, had to do it...).
Anyway, I went bananas taking photos so I'll have to share more in another post. Stay tuned and in the meantime check out Hepzibah Farms on Facebook. And if you live in Birmingham, you can find them at the Pepper Place Farmer's Market on Saturday mornings selling all manner of vegetables, fruits and of course flowers. I just used some of their white eggplant last night which I sautéed and put in a salad with arugula, tomatoes, goat cheese and champagne vinaigrette with some fresh thyme form my garden. First time I've liked any eggplant I've ever cooked so there's that. Thanks to Katie and Charlie for their hospitality and willingness to share.