Shannon McLinden’s mornings on her five-acre McKinney farm begin as you might expect: She gets up at 5 a.m. and takes care of the animals. But what happens next is far from typical. The Texas farm just north of Dallas is also her home office, and it’s the FarmHouse Fresh corporate ranch and headquarters. Surrounded by a menagerie of rescue critters — a horse, a pony, two standard donkeys and two miniatures, an Alpine goat and a miniature goat, plus two dogs — she and her staff of 15 will brainstorm, have meetings, pack and plan for the next trade show and create and promote a skin care line that has become an international spa favorite.
The FarmHouse Fresh line includes more than 150 different products, from peptide-infused daily moisturizers to rich eye serums, body scrubs and facial masks. In 2017, the brand was named the favorite body care line by American Spa Magazine. The top three sellers? Honey heel glaze, an agave nectar body oil and a body lotion that smells like a whoopie pie. “I’m inspired by food and drink,” McLinden says.
It all began 13 years ago when McLinden, an avid runner, suffered from painful cracked heels. She tried the usual treatments — foot files, pedicures, moisturizers — but nothing seemed to work. So she hit a natural foods store and began crafting her own concoctions, eventually landing on a mix of a light rice-bran oil and exfoliating sea salt.
“It worked,” says McLinden, who brought the new product to market in 2006. Dubbed the Fine Foot Scrub Trio, it came in three scents — sweet cream, whipped honey and early apple.
Today, more than 4,000 spas in the United States, Mexico and Canada are clients. FarmHouse Fresh products stand apart with their food-and-farm-inspired scents, folksy packaging, and silly-sounding names, like “Fluffy Bunny” and “Marshmallow Melt.”
“We have touches of country humor in our packaging,” McLinden says. “We have a range of body milk lotions, with a photo of a cow, and we say our cows eat cookies and our cows eat sunshine. We have a fun approach, and it tugs at your heartstrings and makes you laugh when you give it as a gift.”
But behind all of the cute, McLinden says, are products that she stands behind, that are vegan, gluten-free, and not tested on animals. There’s also a new line that’s organic. Many — but not all — of the ingredients are grown in the U.S.
The Honey Apple Oat Gourmet Milk Soap Bar uses organic oats from a farm in Kansas. Cucumbers in the Peat Perfection Mask are grown in nearby Celina and in her own backyard. The overnight product, Wind Down Serum, uses grapes from Delaney Vineyards in nearby Grapevine.
FarmHouse Fresh uses preservatives, but not parabens or sulfates. “Our line is 94 to 99.9 percent natural,” she says, “but it’s a struggle because in this industry, there is no regulation on the term ‘natural.’”
A few products are 100 percent plant-derived, but most also contain synthetics. “People want to be natural, but natural ingredients can irritate the skin,” McLinden explains. “Oranges and lemons have great essential oils, but they can be irritating. We’re on a constant hunt to find preservatives that are effective and safe because the percentage of natural ingredients is high.”
The business relies primarily on direct sales to spas and boutiques, including those at five-star hotels like the Ritz-Carlton in Dallas, where “Dean’s Margarita Salt Glow” (named after its hometown James Beard Award-winning chef) was a custom blend developed for the spa at one of four FarmHouse Fresh production facilities in the Dallas area.
The Woodhouse Day Spa in Fort Worth and Plano offers a “Warm Agave Nectar Manicure and Pedicure” with FarmHouse Fresh products. The Four Seasons in Las Colinas features a “Champagne Moon Dip Facial,” a $165 multistep process that begins with a wrap of vitamin E, coconut oil and palm oil, moves on to a green tea milk wash followed by a yogurt mask, and then, a rose water tonic. It doesn’t end there, but you get the idea — the ingredients sound as delightful as those you’d find in a country kitchen.
A quick store search on the company’s website, FarmHouseFreshGoods.com, will point you to local spas and boutiques that carry the brand. You can, of course, also buy the full line directly from the site.
The FarmHouse Fresh site will also tell you more about the farm’s animal rescue efforts. Almost everybody in the company has his or her own rescue animals, and when someone volunteers to foster, the company picks up the tab for the food. “We are boots on the ground with rescue,” McLinden says. “We didn’t want it to be just a percentage of sales. Instead, we give employee time and hours — it’s so much more meaningful to be hugging and feeding the animals.”
While McLinden notes that the mission to rescue animals “might help you latch onto the brand,” she and her team are firmly focused on the products, creating top-of-the-line face, bath and skin products that give consumers across the globe the FarmHouse Fresh experience.
“We have a great love of growing ingredients and making sure they’re fresh,” she says, “but if it’s not going to do what you say it’ll do, then it would all be for nothing.”