When my husband first brought home a few surprises from Farm Candy, I was both delighted and confused...a gorgeous notebook, a delicate gold chain, a chocolate bar made from lavender and ginger, and chocolate habanero salt? What was this place?
Turns out it was just a few blocks from our Lower Manhattan apartment, and I hadn’t even known. Farm Candy, a specialty shop that ships nationally, is currently stationed in the up-and-coming Seaport District, but is in its last week—word on the street is, they’re pivoting to focus more on national and international sales directly from the website.
The company, which began in the Hamptons and literally grew as a garden, was nurtured by its founder as she worked through a devastating personal trauma.
Pamela Stone had lost her fiancé and partner of twelve years to pancreatic cancer, and, 10 weeks later, she lost her beloved stepmother. She coped by planting vegetables, herbs, and flowers.
“I didn't know anything about organic or edible flowers, or even gardening at the time. I just basically needed to escape and that garden became my project to nurture,” she says.
Fast forward 29 years, and she has mastered crafting infusions by the bowlful in her kitchen. That includes sensational salts, seasonings, and sugars infused with everything from lavender to habanero peppers. Special ingredients like these also find their way into chocolates, oils, and vinegars, too.
Strawberry Sriracha sea salt, for one, can be used on everything from vegetables to noodles and pizza, while Field of Flower peppercorns, tropical fruit, chipotle, pepper black, Hawaiian sea salt, and the incredibly festive Pink Himalayan flower salt can instantly jazz up ceviche, salads, salsa, pork, popcorn, beef, and soups.
While she spent most of her time in the Hamptons (and travelling Europe) for many years, she didn’t become an official resident until 2007, when she built a house with her then-husband in Watermill. That winter, she made infused salts and sugars for friends as Christmas gifts — by then, she says, friends and family were already after her to dish on what made certain dishes so good — and continued experimenting and playing with different ingredients and flavors.
In 2013, she took the leap and started selling Farm Candy as a set of three salts, three sugars and one peppercorn on the luxury website Ahalife.com as part of its Artisans Project. Then in 2014, a friend told her about a pop-up shop on Main Street in Bridgehampton for the summer called “Hamptons Collective.”
“That gave me the much needed push I needed and I signed a lease for June through October and opened a Farm Candy shop as part of the collective,” Stone says.
She launched a website in December of 2016, so that her Hamptons fans — along with curious cooks from around the world — could experiment with everything from tangerine-thyme bittersweet chocolate sugar to Champagne blood orange mimosa organic vinegar, and chocolate bars made with whole pieces of strawberry, tangerine, mango, and blueberry on top, mixed in with spices like thyme and basil.
“I went from the initial seven different salts, sugars and peppercorns to around 22,” Stone says. “The olive oil and vinegar line has expanded to 12 items, the chocolate line is now at 20 different flavors, and salsas, sauces, tapenades, dessert sauces and teas also vary depending on the season.”
One of the most unique salts, Nasty Woman, was created during a private dinner hosted during the debate by a stylist friend.
“It’s a combination of spicy habanero pepper sea salt sweetened with some organic cane sugar and a zesty combination of assorted citrus. There’s also some ground ginger thrown in for a little extra kick. We used it as the main spice for a delicious vegetable tagine, but it's also wonderful in stews and on grilled fish, poultry and meats,” Stone says.
It’s easy to get carried away, so remember, oils, salts, or sugars should be used lightly, otherwise, they can be overpowering.
While flavors are the main staple at Farm Candy, her brick-and-mortar shop offers other fun rotating items, like jewelry, dog treats, and beard oil. As for what’s coming up, Stone hints at a Farm Candy cookbook. And, despite a demand for more national orders and commercial requests from stores who want to carry her “candy,” Stone still makes her salts, sugars, and chocolates by hand, though she enlists the help of co-packers on some of her other products.
“I’m always thinking of new flavors for the salts and sugars, but I’m also looking at hot chocolate, and have been playing with popcorn and chocolate-covered pretzels. They’re not ready yet, but you’re hoping this is the year.”
The label started off as Hampton Pantry, a name she retains for certain products in the line, but Farm Candy encompasses the entire brand.
She’d been struggling for months to come up with a name for the items she makes by hand specifically when inspiration finally struck.
“I’d been dating a farmer upstate, a real farmer, a Cornell Graduate who still got up at 4 a.m. and worked on his 500-acre farm,” Stone recalls. “We’d been out for dinner, he went to bed at 8 p.m., and me and my dog, Maxine, were wandering around the farm, and I thought, ‘I can’t believe this is my life. I went from arm candy to Farm Candy.'”
Stone is just one of the many female powerhouses leading the food business today.