From Corporate to Farmstead Entrepreneur: A Conversation With Rachael Tuller
A typical morning for a working mom usually starts off with taking care of the kids, getting them off to childcare or school before heading into work for the day. For Rachael Tuller, she spends her mornings milking goats with her newborn, Banzai, strapped to her chest and her enthusiastic three-year-old, affectionately known to her online followers as “Giz,” herding the goats and helping to milk. Rachael also shares personal stories and trials and tribulations with the farm to her more than 12,000 social media followers with blogs posts that never shy away from the messy truth.

Rachael attended college at the Air Force Academy where she also competed on the track field. Shortly after graduation, she was deployed to Iraq where she served as a protocol officer. After she completed her service as a mortuary officer in the Air Force, she settled in Olympia, Washington, where she now owns and operates a farm, selling goat cheeses, yogurt, soap, pork products, and chicken and quail eggs. With the support of her husband, girlfriends, and her own grit and passion, somehow she makes it all look easy and glamorous.

From Corporate to Farmstead Entrepreneur: A Conversation With Rachael Tuller

From Corporate to Farmstead Entrepreneur: A Conversation With Rachael Tuller
Rachael sets up a photo studio in her home on The Farmstead. Rachael sees nothing wrong with wearing a formal ball gown with her baby goat, Yeah Yeah.
Your life story is so unique and you have a lot of interesting history. How have your experiences in the Air Force Academy, serving in Iraq, being a mom and working as a full-time corporate employee influenced or inspired you as an entrepreneur?
In the Air Force, I learned to overcome adversity. In Iraq, to be quick and agile. As a corporate employee, I learned to give people what they wanted, even if they weren’t asking for that. And as a mom I learned to throw away all my expectations and laugh…because, kids. They are ruthless.
Let’s talk about the farm. How did you know your purpose was to become a farmer?
I’m not sure if I ever decided to become a farmer. I bought chickens, and anyone who has had them will tell you, chickens are the gateway drug to a farming lifestyle. Once you taste that first egg, you are hooked and all you want to do is make more food from scratch. Dairy has always been the holy grail for me because I love anything that has to do with dairy. And it’s hard to find farmstead operations that are raising animals and making products the way you want.
employee to entrepreneurWhat is an average day like for you?
On a weekday I wake up early to check my corporate work email and log at least an hour of work until the kids start waking up. My daughter will grab a glass of chocolate milk (goat, of course) before we head down to the parlor. Giz loves to turn on the pulsator (one of the pieces of equipment that help pump the milk from the goats to the bulk tank), so that’s her job. Milking takes about an hour. After we milk we have breakfast as a family and shuffle everyone out the door. I drop my kiddos off at our nanny and then head to work. I work a full day, then get my children and head to the farm. We play and enjoy the outside while doing chores and then head in for dinner and showers.
My husband works as a nurse part-time, so on days where he is working I head back into the dairy after I put the kids to bed (hooray baby monitors) and I will either package cheese or make cheese until I head to bed. These make for really long days, but it’s how we keep the dairy moving when he’s gone. The good news is he only works part-time, so when he is home he is able to get most of the dairy work done while I’m at work.
Most every night though we head back into the dairy to make or package cheese after the kids have gone to sleep.
On the weekends we work Farmer’s Markets. We wake up at 4 a.m. to milk and are loaded up and ready to go by 6 a.m. We get home from markets around 4 p.m. and then start milking again. After milking, we try to take a breather and enjoy our family and farm. Then, we start the kids’ bedtime routine.
Do Americans think farming is a dying occupation, or most farms in America are run by large corporations? Do you see the small farms making a comeback?
Absolutely! Small farms are so mighty, we don’t give them enough credit. The biggest obstacle for small farmers is community support. If farmers sold out every week there would be plenty of farmers making a living wage. The problem comes when we spend a large portion of our time and dollars having to market to convince people that real food, from local farms, is better for you. I used to be one of those people who thought farmer’s markets were expensive. But now that I am at them every week I can vouch, they aren’t. This is absolutely the best food money can buy and it’s not even that expensive. If we started prioritizing real food as a country more people would find it lucrative to get into farming, and boom, small farms COULD feed the masses.
You’re a very modern day farmer in that you share so much of yourself on your blog and with beautiful photos. What does it feel like to be so open and share such personal information about your business to your customers and social media followers? Do you think social media is important or necessary to be a successful small-business owner today?
Absolutely! Social media is important for small-business owners. We don’t have the benefit of huge marketing budgets behind our products. We have one thing. Ourselves. As a small business owner, you’re selling more than your product. You’re selling your story. Because the way we live at the farm is a way I would like to share with the world, I think sharing so much of myself is important. People can’t model what they don’t believe in. If I think it’s important to support local farms and eat real food, I have to show what a local farmer who eats real food looks like.
Sometimes I worry that I’m oversharing, but if I censored myself, then I would stop being genuine and I think my community would see that. And I honestly believe it’s the real guts of it all that makes people want to support the farm.
From Corporate to Farmstead Entrepreneur: A Conversation With Rachael Tuller
How have you marketed to customers and earned their business? How much of your time is spent administrative duties versus milking goats, creating packaging and actually selling?
Most of our customers come to us at farmer’s markets, so, venue. We’ve also done quite a few grocery store demos. Through our virtual presence, we’re able to easily advertise our on-farm events and, if we ever did
decide to ship, we would be able to attract customers through our website.
So much time is spent with administrative work! When I first started a goat dairy I thought, wow, this will be so much fun, I’ll just get to hang out with goats all day. But the truth is, I spend less time with my goats now than I did when I only had a couple and I was a backyard homesteader. Creating packaging has been another obstacle that I think we will always struggle with. The package, for us, is so important. We want it to be socially and environmentally responsible but we also need it to not cost a million dollars. It would also be great if it helped make packaging cheese easier and not harder. We are continually searching for other options.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned as an entrepreneur? What’s the best advice you would give a busy woman who wants to start her own business, or if you’d like, the best advice for those in the farming industry?
The biggest lesson I’ve learned as an entrepreneur is that you have to have nerves of steel. Starting a small business is heartbreaking. One day you’re on the highest high you can imagine and the next day you’re not sure how you’re going to pay to keep the doors open.
From Corporate to Farmstead Entrepreneur: A Conversation With Rachael Tuller
You cannot be an entrepreneur without being comfortable taking risks, putting yourself out there, or hearing no. Also, get a message. And stick to it. And tell everyone. Anyone who will listen. The more people you have on your side the better. These will be the people who support you when you need it most.
I leaned so heavily on my girlfriend that month without ever having to ask. She would make my family dinner, watch my daughter, come help with the goats.
corporate to entrepreneur
There is no way we could have gotten through that first month without the non-judgmental love and support of our friends and family.
Finally, the last lesson I learned, was to take a day off. In the initial grind of starting a small business, a day off seems like a pipe dream. But, three months in, we took a step back and said, we need some sacred time. We changed up our routines so that we ate dinner together as a family every night. So that our children could get undivided attention from us. And so that one day, every single week, all we committed to was milking goats. The rest of it was for family. Without that sacred time, we would be so run down that our time spent on the business would be less productive.
How has the support and influence of other women (mom, friends, other farmers) helped you thus far?
Nothing means as much to me as the support of other women. We are a fierce sort. If we love something. We love it. If we don’t. Get out of our way. For me, the support of other women means I have the support of the world (literally and figuratively).

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