Shelton Herb Farm, More than Just Herbs by Pat Naughton

The Shelton Herb Farm is not your typical century farm. A century farm means it has been in the same family for over 100 years. The farm has been in the Goodman family since 1867. Margaret Shelton acquired ownership of farm from her great-grandmother, after whom Shelton is named. Since 1986 Margaret has been working the farm and started a nursery. Although the farm may be antiquated, her methods are not. Margaret uses organic techniques and strives for no-till farming. Her passion for science motivates her to try new things. “I use discing along with ground cover crops but no tilling”, said Margaret. Her last job was a marine biology technician at UNC Wilmington, she retired in 2017. Her husband Chuck, a retired environmental scientist, is also focused on new techniques in the cider craft industry. Chuck is the cider maker at Albemarle CiderWorks, just south of Charlottesville, Virginia, which is owned by his sister Charlotte.

Don’t let the “herb farm” name fool you. In addition to over 500 different species of herbs, Shelton Herb Farm has citrus plants, vegetables, and shrubs. Many of these are native plants for this area. One of the specialties of the farm is microgreens. Microgreens are young vegetable greens that grow between 1 to 3 inches tall. They have more flavor and higher nutrient content than a mature plant. Margaret provides microgreens to several fine restaurants in the area.  Mr. P’s Bistro in Southport is one. Margaret also sells her plants and produce at local farmers’ markets. You may find her at Southport Summer Market or the Shallotte Farmers’ market. The Shallotte Farmers’ market is one of her favorites. “Shallotte really thought it out, especially from the perspective of the vendors, so, for instance, we don’t have to lug our produce long distances from the car to our booth,” she said.

Organic gardening does have its challenges. Margaret says the key is to start with a healthy plant. Grow large vegetable plants before transplanting and then plant a large portion of the stem. Raised beds or containers that drain well help to prevent soggy roots. She keeps a close eye out for insects. “You have to attack them quickly”, she said. Margaret uses a solution of dish soap for soft bodied insects like aphids. When a stronger insecticide is called for, she may try Bt (bacillus thuringiensis) or pyrethrum as last choice. When she spots a beneficial insect like a ladybug, she is known to capture it and release it in the greenhouse.

Brunswick county has two growing seasons, warm (spring and summer) and cool (fall through spring). It is important to select the right plant for the growing season.

Basil is a popular herb for spring but don’t plant it before the last frost in April. Margaret is learning from local horticulturists to follow the moon pattern. “The last April frost typically comes on the full moon in April. Cilantro is another popular herb that people plant in the spring. This plant bolts quickly with the warm summers in Brunswick County and is better suited for growing in the cool season. “When selecting plants for the warm season look for those that come from Texas or Mexico”, says Margaret. Culantro and pepicha are warm season substitutes for cilantro from Central America.

You don’t have to drive south of the boarder to find warm season plants. They are available at Shelton Herb Farm, located at 340 Goodman Road, Leland. For more information about the farm, visit where you can sign up for Margaret’s newsletter.