Alumni Spotlight

Sara Turnbull & Steve Lester


Sara Turnbull & Steve Lester of Chicory Farm SoapName: Sara Turnbull & Steve Lester

Graduation Year: 2011


Sara: Self-Design Studies (Sustainable Textile Production)

Steve: Sustainable Agriculture

Current Hometown: Bloomfield, NY


Sara: Owner of Chicory Farm Soap

Steve: General Manager at Doug Turnbull Restoration


Can you tell us about the work you are doing now?

Sara:  These days I’m running my business, Chicory Farm Soap. It’s a goat milk soap business that Steve and I started about a year after graduation after having a hard time getting a creamery and goat dairy going. We were drowning in milk with no way to sell it, so we decided to saponify it and see if we could make a buck. Yikes, there were a lot of puns in that sentence… My daily work involves making Chicory Farm Soapproducts (soap, salve, liquid soap, sugar scrubs) and finding ways to market them (craft shows, trade shows, wholesale outlets, our website, and other websites). We’ve scaled the goat farm back from 65 goats to just 7 (Dogwood (Angora Goat, class of 2011) is still around!), so the farm work is barely noticeable.

Steve:  I began working at Turnbull Restoration when we were still at Sterling. Turnbull Restoration works on historic firearms to restore them to their former glory. I started off working in the back, doing “color case hardening” (look it up, it’s pretty cool!), but these days I help manage the business. I do a lot of customer service and sales, and somehow along the way became a bit of an expert in antique guns! My position in the business allows me to innovate and collaborate and to come up with new ideas to grow the company.


How did Sterling influence your current career path?

Sara & Steve:  We started dating in high school, and after a few twists and turns both ended up at Sterling College. I think for both of us Sterling brought forth and cemented our interest in entrepreneurship and business. Not a lot of college experiences leave a person feeling like they’re capable of starting their own business, particularly when those colleges aren’t focused on business. There’s something about the independence, responsibility, and freedom that Sterling grants its students that makes for a more adventurous and bold adult.


What is your most memorable Bounder/Expedition memory?

Sara:  I remember waiting for the evac crew to come help one of our classmates out. I think we were on Chicory Farm Soapa logging road, or something like that, and since we were just standing around we were starting to get cold. Somebody started dancing and rapping and I think we had a dance party! A very good way to get warm.


Any words of wisdom for the current Sterling generation?

Sterling is a remarkable place; just because you’re leaving it behind doesn’t mean you should take only memories with you. Take stock of your experience at school, figure out what parts of college life are the most fulfilling and exciting for you, and find a way to work those aspects of life into your “real” life after you graduate. Living with friends, exploring the woods, or making a difference in your community can all be part of a typical American life, even when you’re paying bills and having kids.



Filed Under: Alumni Blog