Tracee Palmer, our NJMOMPreneur of the Week, was a Madison mom of four when her son, Andrew, brought home a book that would change the course of her life. The book was “Chicken Boy,” and since her son became enthralled with having chickens from reading the book, Tracee set up a chicken coop in their yard and eventually added a few goats to their backyard farm. But when her kids wouldn’t drink the goat milk, she was left to figure out other ways to use it. With no prior experience, Tracee read up on homesteading, did research, finessed a cold process for soap making from raw goat milk, and Garden Goat Soap was born. Twelve years later, Tracee has expanded from soap to a full line of handcrafted face, bath, and body products she sells at farmers’ markets and online. And recently, she moved her business and her family to Pittstown to Twin Goat Farm —it’s where Tracee makes her products, holds Red Barn events alongside other vendors, and has visions of expanding. We chatted with her to find out about the move to farm life, how the uptick in hand washing during the pandemic is a good thing for soap, and the best local place for authentic Polish kielbasa.
Tracee, with her daughter, Grace, sharing a meal after working a craft show together.
Tell us a little about your family and career background. My husband, Joe, and I have been married for 30 years and raised our children, Joseph (27), Andrew (26), Christian (24), and Grace (20), in Madison, a perfect family town thanks to the excellent schools and great community. We loved living there but recently moved to a farm in Pittstown. It’s proven to be the ideal place to expand my business and give the goats more room to graze, and it also allows the chickens to free roam instead of spending all their hours in a chicken coop. Career-wise, I took a long time off raising my kids, but farm life is a total pivot from what I did before. My background was in retail, where I was managing stores, and then when my kids were in school, I became a teacher’s aid working with preschoolers. I loved working with children, so I’d like to add a workshop element where kids can come out to the farm and combine ingredients to customize their lotions and other products.
How has the pandemic affected your business? Because of the pandemic, farmers’ markets became more important because people were more comfortable outside instead of shopping indoors. The pandemic also made many people realize that they needed to shop locally to support small businesses. It also drove home the importance of hand-washing and led me to introduce liquid soap to my customers so they’d have options. And lastly, it also caused many more people to shop online, so my website became more important to help new customers access my business. Also, aside from my daughter, who’s at college, all the boys are living at home on the farm with us because they’re working remotely, and I love having the family together. I’m so happy that all the kids have embraced the move–they’re even riding dirt bikes now!
What do you hope your children learn from watching you run your business? I’ve always told them to find what makes them happy and do that. And, I think I’ve set a pretty good example.
Does your family ever get involved? Yes, everyone chips in when they’re available. When my daughter, Grace, is home from college, she works the craft shows and the farmer’s markets. And my husband and sons help out when it doesn’t conflict with their work schedules. They’ll help out at the markets and also do things like loading the vans and handling the breakdown.
What’s the most challenging thing about being a business owner? The hardest thing for any entrepreneur is continual self-motivation. One way I’ve overcome that is to cultivate a group of other crafters—we call ourselves the Wild Women Crafters—so that we push each other to be our best. We get together and give each other advice and support. It’s a sharing of information more than anything, and I feel so blessed to be a part of this group.
Do you have any time management tips or advice so that you can make time for everyone and everything important to you? Set a schedule and stick to it—it’s the only way I get everything done. I have a large chalkboard where I list out my chores for the week. It’s how I make sure the animals get taken care of, along with making my products and getting all the paperwork done on time. And because my days start as early as 5:30 AM, I try not to work past 4:30 PM to make dinner for my family so we can sit together and share a meal. That moment is special to me, and I know how lucky I am that my table hasn’t gotten smaller.
What’s your bestseller? It varies throughout the year, but our fig bar soap, lotion, and liquid soap are the best sellers during the holidays. I’m a lavender vanilla girl—it’s all I use. But, for my face, I swear by the carrot essential oil face bar. It’s another of our bestsellers because it is that good and excellent for aging skin.
What is your favorite thing to do to help you unwind after a stressful day? To relax, I like to sit on a rocking chair on the front porch with a cold beer and watch the chickens. They’re so funny—and yes, I do hear how strange that sounds, but I swear there’s nothing quite like it. They’re free-range, but their coop is across from the porch, and they’re just so entertaining. My extended family is always amazed at the turn my life took. I worked in retail and was always put together and wore very nice clothes. And now, I live in overalls, take care of chickens and goats, and run my business out of a farm, and I couldn’t be happier. When you find what you truly love to do, it changes your perspective on everything.
What’s next for your business? I’ve got a few things that I’m working on. Along with adding a workshop element for kids (and possibly adults) to customize products, I’d like to grow our farm into a wedding and event venue. I also want to set up a Livestream camera out in the barn. When we first moved to Pittstown, I had a hauler come to move the goats, and I regret not having a camera set up to catch those first moments. The goats were running and leaping and jumping, and it was such a memorable sight to behold. I think other people would appreciate catching some of those special moments we’re privy to because we live here.
Garden Goat Soap is so much more than soap. They also make body care, including lotion, salts, scrubs, balms, oils, and more.
What are some of your favorite NJ businesses? Textile Trolley has amazing handcrafted things for babies and children. It’s an excellent place for gifts or finding something for your children. Stefan’s Pure Blends has the most delicious specialty foods like pierogi, stuffed cabbage, and kielbasa, thanks to the owner’s grandmother’s recipes from Poland. Another favorite shop is Sugar Maple Jerseys, famous for their cheese and meat. And I’m a big fan of Van Ryzin Design for their handmade bags.
What is your best piece of advice for a MOMpreneur just starting? It’s crucial to follow your passions and see where they take you. When I was first thinking about adding events as part of my business, my father-in-law, Bill Palmer, told me to be bold, not over-think things, and just go for it. I think that’s excellent advice. Many of us talk ourselves out of doing what we want to do when instead we should just trust our gut.