We started out baking oats, nuts and seeds in our kitchen at home, burning a few batches along the way, to come up with five delicious flavours of muesli and granola (which we like to think of as crunchy muesli). This was in 2009.
We were excited to have people taste our experiments, so we started selling our muesli at farmers’ markets. Which turns out to be a brilliant place to be if you want to know what your customers think. Which we did.
Being small – it was just the two of us, Sally and Scott – meant that we could respond to what people were saying, tweaking the recipes and adding a little less cinnamon here, a bit more fruit there and even adding chocolate to the mix. (A daring move, we thought at the time, but nutritionally sound and tastes great.) It also meant we could trial our packaging, our sales pitch and so much more.
Some of our customers from these early days are still buying Farmer Jo muesli and many customers became friends.
When we started out, Scott was working in the boutique, hand-roasted coffee business in inner-city Sydney and Sally was in interior design. With the arrival of our first daughter, Olivia, we started to talk about the kind of future we wanted – and it didn’t involve working long hours for somebody else.
The future we saw burning bright was one where we worked together and for ourselves. We knew we had complementary skills. Sally as creator and nurturer of the brand and Scott doing what he does best, talking to people.
Before we hit on muesli as our thing, we’d already worked through a few other ideas, from organic cleaning products to wool throws, and even then it took a really long time before we took any action. (A pretty intense late-night argument at the kitchen table was involved.)
The inspiration came from what was happening in Sydney at the time – the emergence of small, hands-on, artisan food companies that gave a toss about quality, value, health and ethics. All around us we could see guys roasting coffee beans in garages, baking small batch sourdough bread and grinding bean-to-bar chocolate. Was there room, we wondered, for a boutique, small batch muesli brand too?
Our brief was really clear. To take all that was great about muesli – basically, it’s incredible health and nutritional benefits – and add some bling. We wanted to make a muesli that would have you salsa dancing to the breakfast table wearing flowers in your hair.
It turns out there was room in the market for a boutique, small batch muesli brand. A decade on, with a range of 15 muesli and granola flavours, including gluten free and paleo mixes, and a strong team, which includes Sally’s sister Michelle and her partner Eliseo (Yeah!) working alongside us. Farmer Jo is now sold around Australia and exports to Japan and elsewhere in Asia.
A few years ago, our business started to sound like corn when it’s popping. Orders were growing, the production kitchen was working at full throttle and we were taking on more people. While we loved our city base, we’d also started dreaming of having more space – we have four daughters now, Olivia, Frankie, Mae and Sybella, and our inner-city workers’ cottage was feeling very snug. We wanted to live life in the slow lane and fall asleep to the soundtrack of the ocean IRL. It felt like a big decision, but after a bit of juggling and planning we did it. We moved to northern NSW, building a production kitchen in the sleepy town of Mullumbimby, part of the Byron Bay Shire, and found a home with ocean views for us.
The real win has been the life that we’ve created for our family. We work hard and, like every other business owner, our minds are always occupied with one thing or another to do with Farmer Jo – a new flavour, sales campaigns, converting to recyclable packaging, establishing new markets … The list is endless.
But, we also have time to hang out with our kids and our families so that we can celebrate the great stuff in life, get to the gym and yoga classes as often as we can, walk on the beach, eat and drink well and laugh. (We do a lot of that.)
Thank you for being interested in our story. We’re pretty proud of what we do and really appreciate all our customers for backing us.
—Sally and Scott Tulloch
We like to freewheel a bit in the kitchen and play around with our combinations, but we never stray from our basic principles.
Taste is everything
Every mouthful of Farmer Jo’s muesli and granola has to taste amazing. This means seeking out the best tasting raw ingredients we can and treating them with the utmost respect when they arrive in the kitchen. We zero in on the optimum toasting time and temperature to bring out the best of each ingredient. With oats, we like a dark roast, the result of a long, slow bake. Small seeds will need less time in the oven and large nuts, well, they take much longer. The end game is that every single ingredient is at its best before it gets mixed. If you’re going to eat granola, you’ll want crunch, so we subject our ingredients to the crunch test too. Plus, we are big fans of clusters and do everything we can to make our clusters as big, and as crunchy, as can be.
Good looks never hurt anyone
Farmer Jo muesli and granola is high maintenance – in a good way. We want to produce the best looking muesli and granola you’ve ever seen and for that we need good looking raw ingredients. Our oats have to be just the right shape and size and need to be able to hold their shape. (Have you noticed how some oats are powdery?) Nuts need to be firm and fresh. We also like them whole. Dehydrated fruit must be aromatic and supple, not brittle or tough. How the ingredient looks in your breakfast bowl is also really important to us. Does a macadamia nut look better cut vertically, horizontally or into small pieces? Should we tear rather than cut the lovely slice of dehydrated pear and, if so, into what size? Is it going to be shaved or shredded coconut – or a combination of both? What’s the magic ratio of muscatel raisins to oats?
Seeking out outstanding ingredients is our starting point and treating each individually so that they’re presented at their very best is our approach. We have Farmer Jo standards for each ingredient – dried fruit must be aromatic and supple, nuts have to be fresh with crunch, and we look for oats that are the perfect shape and size (oats are not all created equal) – that we apply to every batch that we make. When we can, we love working directly with Australian farmers and producers and when we do, we let you know about it.
Sally’s father’s family ran a food stand at Sydney’s main fruit and veg market at Flemington. They thought of themselves as the family who fed the market. Her dad didn’t work in the family business, but as a kid, Sally got to see market life unfold around her when she stayed at her grandparent’s house during school holidays. The early mornings. The bustle. Counting the money at the kitchen table. It goes a long way towards explaining why she loves trading and markets as much as she does – which is a lot. Sally met Scott at work, in a nightclub, a few days after she arrived in London on an around-the-world trip. She was there to replenish her travel fund, which had taken a real beating in Italy. Things moved fast but nothing was going to stop Sally returning home a few months later for her sister’s wedding and to get stuck into work that she felt had substance and a future. When she returned, she enrolled to study interior design at Enmore TAFE and went on to work with two leading Sydney interiors companies, helping to create beautiful spaces. Scott emigrated to Australia and the couple have since had four beautiful daughters and built their company Farmer Jo together.
If there was one thing that Scott’s childhood lacked, it was the idea that there was anything beyond the Glasgow suburb of Drumchapel where he and his family lived. Opportunities were scarce and you made your own luck. His luck was to work as a caddy to the rich and famous at Dumbarton Gold Club. Strolling around the gold course with guests such as Sylvester Stallone burst his horizons and he set his sights on becoming an actor. He got an agent and moved to London where he worked on commercials and in small TV roles, as well as in a nightclub. Which is where he met Sally. Next step, Australia. Finding work when he first arrived was tough, but he eventually landed a job doing PR and marketing for a small pub group after he jammed their fax machine by sending his application hundreds of times (yep, it was a long time ago). He was successful and that job led to another and another. Then he found coffee. Or coffee found him. Working with the small, artisanal, coffee roastery Di Lorenzo, Scott learned he could sell (previously he’d been seduced by the glamour of marketing). This led to work with other coffee companies, large and small, including Cerebos and Toby’s Estate. Watching small-brand, small-batch, artisanal coffee going off, Scott started to wonder if the same could happen for muesli. And that’s when Farmer Jo was born.
Our question at Farmer Jo when we are creating new products and sourcing new ingredients is always “would we feed this to our family, to our kids?”. We believe it is our responsibility as a food producer to respect the farmers and the land our food has come from and to care about the end product that we pass onto our customers.
“Want Me Eat Me Love Me”
This has been our little motto from the very beginning and something that we always ask ourselves at Farmer Jo.
Want Me - Are we making a product that our customer wants, are we informed about the nutrition of our products?
Eat Me - Do we smell good, look good, taste good? We do not like wasted food!
Love Me – Do we nourish our customers, enhance their wellbeing and pass on our knowledge?
We don't follow suit, we are creators and choose to dance to our own tune.
We create what we truly believe can make a positive change to the wellbeing of our customers.
No BS, thank you. What's on the label is in the product.
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