Little Seed Farm is a favorite company around Tennessee - their products are beloved as are the folks who run the operation. As they put it, their mission is to "provide humanely and sustainably produced soap and skincare to our community, and to encourage other small businesses to embrace land stewardship and sustainable production.” And they do just that in a pretty radical way. You hear a lot of companies talking a big game about their efforts, but Little Seed takes every single thing they do seriously. From their solar powered production facility to the way they administer medical care to their goats, every decision is carefully considered.
We first connected with Little Seed when Eileen (who founded and runs Little Seed along with her husband, James) e-mailed us in search of an outfit for an event. We were able to help out, and in thanks she sent us a big box of hand soaps from their line. We promptly made the transition at the warehouse from some pretty hideous Dial dispensers to their beautifully bottled goats-milk hand soap. All of our employees loved it, and it was a small thing that made a surprisingly big difference in our day to day. Since then, we’ve worked with Little Seed a few times - last holiday season their bar soaps were a part of our gift boxes (developed to make giving gift cards a little more exciting and substantial), and we carried their products in our showroom through the winter months and again this past summer as part of our Living Room pop-up. I’ve used more jars of the charcoal body scrub than I care to admit, and everyone who knows me has gotten a bar of their classic goats milk soap from me as a gift at some point. We went out to visit James and Eileen at Little Seed earlier this year to see their operation first-hand, and learn a little bit about how they run their business. I was immediately inspired and fascinated, and watching Eileen seamlessly go from wrangling her beautiful kiddos, dogs, and farm animals to explaining a new product’s branding and packaging to us made it clear she was a perfect muse for ES.
She had such an interesting story, both her and James leaving successful careers in NYC to become farmers. Their impressive transition into raising goats and starting a family in rural Tennessee has certainly paid off, with Little Seed becoming a popular brand around the US and abroad, and their line expanding to include several new amazing skincare products. We went back to spend the day with Eileen to talk a little more about her life and experience as a mom, business-owner, and farmer - and to photograph her in her favorite ES garments. We are digging a little deeper with our muses moving forward, beginning with this one. Read our interview with Eileen below - I hope you enjoy hearing about her life and seeing how she wears ES. Also, how precious is baby Cecilia?! But then again, I’m pretty partial to her name. ;)
City: Lebanon, Tennessee
Occupation: Creative Farm Mom
What does a typical day in your life look like?
With a growing business and growing babies, every day is a bit different - and I have to admit that I enjoy the hustle. It’s never boring! That said, most mornings now start much like I imagine other moms' do: with coffee and a drive to drop our son George off at Montessori. The rest of the day will involve a blend of Little Seed work - developing new products, working on packaging design, the website, photography, signage, sourcing ingredients and brainstorming new systems - and taking care of our 8-month-old daughter, Cecilia. When George comes home in the afternoon, we spend the rest of the day outside, hiking, playing in the dirt, visiting the goats, and enjoying each other.
You underwent a huge career shift when you moved from New York to Tennessee. What prompted the change?
When James and I met we were both in careers that were the culmination of our childhood dreams. The problem was that our adult selves had already starting to grow out of them. The glamorous sheen of fashion and finance had worn thin, and now we were being exposed to the underbelly. Unethical production and business practices were only the beginning - it was less than savory and we were having a hard time stomaching it. We realized how important it was to us to be contributing in a meaningful way for the good of the environment and humanity. We wanted to feel proud of the work we were doing every day, not just because we were good at it, but because we were actually doing good. We were relatively young and free of debt and obligations (like kids) that could hold us back so we decided to be a little gutsy and dream without fear. After much soul-searching and months of research reads and trips we decided that the best path for us would be farming.
Do you ever miss the energy of the city?
I do miss the grittiness of it at times as well as the dizzying diversity of people and cultures crammed into such a small space. Having grown up moving quite a bit as a child, spending my 20's living abroad, and then moving to NYC, I seem to be hard wired to need a jolting change of scenery every so often to reawaken my creativity. You definitely get that on a daily basis in NYC! Now at the farm, where the responsibilities of our animal family and the business keep us fairly tethered, my scenery is bucolic and consistent. I'm learning how to jumpstart my creativity in other ways. Anything that pulls me out of my comfort zone and makes me see with curious eyes again is enough. From delivering goat babies to giving birth to my own, life these days has full of those opportunities.
You live and work on the same property, just like my husband and I. I know we struggle with balancing work and the rest of our life, and the two often blur into one. Do you try to divide your time and create boundaries, or embrace the mixing of career and personal?
The struggle is real! When your work is your passion, it's difficult to step away... or not step back in the middle of the night when you should be sleeping! Juggling parenting with running a business (our first baby) when it's all intertwined is challenging. Every moment not devoted to the kids is spent on Little Seed. It's very difficult for me to take time for a date with my husband, a visit with a friend, or self care without feeling guilty. I cut my own hair last week (I’m talking a bob, not a split end trim) to avoid “wasting” the 4 hours it would have taken to trek to and fro Nashville and have it done by a professional. The balance is something I clearly need to work on, but I remind myself frequently that this is just a season. Before I know it my kids will be off at sleepovers and I'll be longing for the days when they needed me like this. The business will not be quite as new and leggy and we’ll be better at the management facet. Right now though, we’re in what I endearingly call, “Survival Mode” and, as messy as it can be, I love every second of it.
What do you guys like to eat, and who does most of the cooking?
We love all food but our dinner go-to is what we (not so) elegantly call “Farm Mash”. It consists of a grain (we love einkorn berries), roasted seasonal veggies, and sometimes a protein or legume, served layered. It’s healthy, fast, easy, and versatile. We switch up the seasonings frequently - curry one day, ginger and garlic another - to keep things interesting. We both cook and go through phases depending on where we are in life. I lived in Italy for 6 years which heavily influenced my cooking style, while James was born and raised amongst the green chiles in New Mexico. He cooked for us for the first few months after the birth of both of our children which I’ll forever be grateful for. The man makes a mean pumpkin taco! I love his cooking.
What are you reading right now - or wish you were reading, if (like me) you struggle to find the time?
I have been reading way too much election news and need to stop. Seriously - it gets me so riled up that I can’t sleep!
Favorite tunes at the moment?
The new St. Paul and The Broken Bones album and, as always, The Eagles and NPR.
Little Seed is in such an incredible place at the moment, and your sweet family is pretty perfect - it’s hard to imagine improving on what you’ve got going on. What are your big dreams for the future?
Well, thank you! We’re far from perfect, but we do the best we can to keep heading in the right direction. I’d love to expand our contributions to the community, add to our sustainability efforts, and continue to work on building an inspiring and supportive working environment for our employees. There’s a lot of fine tuning we’d like to do once the dust settles.
What’s your favorite simple advice for someone interested in starting a business?
If you’ve studied the risks and still want to do it, DO IT! Also, don’t skimp on branding - it’s important.
For the variety of jobs I might be doing in a single day, getting dressed is an important part of preparing myself - mentally and physically - for what’s to come. What role does clothing play in your day to day?
Getting dressed in the morning is a time when I take a moment to reconnect with myself before I start my day. My life has changed so much, but my style has stayed pretty much the same (although now my boots don’t have heels). I dress like myself, for myself, and when I look in the mirror, I see ME. It seems like such a small thing, but when you’ve been up all night nursing a teething baby and can’t even remember your middle name, it means a lot. I am a mother, I am a wife, I am an artist, I am a farmer, and I am a businesswoman. Sometimes so many roles can be disorienting, and those few minutes in the morning keep me centered.