A Sonoma County, Calif. goat farm is about as far away as one can be from the fast-paced glitzy Los Angeles life former film and advertising producer Laura Howard used to live. In fact, it’s the epitome of “slow,” a word that’s come to mean a lot to Howard, who founded Laloo’s goat milk ice cream at age 35 with no ice cream experience, and her husband, multimedia artist Douglas Gayeton, whose just-published book, “Slow: Life in a Tuscan Town ” has become an instant best-seller. The couple, who met in Tuscany, have taken the slow food idea and made it a reality while building their businesses and raising a daughter, Tuilerie, now 3.
It wasn’t a need to make a lot of money that drove Howard to start her own business, but a desire to live a more fulfilling, healthier life — not unlike the lives of the people whom she befriended in Tuscany. It also didn’t hurt that she’s been a lifelong ice cream junkie; as she says, “There’s nothing that ice cream can’t fix.”
How hard was it to go from L.A. woman to Petaluma farmer?
Not as hard as people might think. I was a 4-H kid growing up. There’s something about slowing down and being outside everyday. It’s harder being in your car and under fluorescent lights.
You started Laloo’s at age 35 with no experience in ice cream or owning your own business, just a passion and a desire to change your life. What has surprised you about becoming an entrepreneur?
Just how much freedom there is. Having to find a way to manage everything was pretty thrilling at times, and challenging. You get to put as much time into one area as you think is right. And, you learn just how long a day can be.
Not too long after you started Laloo’s you became a mother. In what ways has that changed you?
In ways I hadn’t expected it to. Being a mom made me look more into the future, how what I do may affect her life and the world around her. It sounds cliché but I wanted to leave a legacy and make an impact. I began looking at everything and its consequence.
What were the challenges of keeping a fledgling business going while dealing with a newborn?
I was incredible fortunate to have a staff of women around me, one’s a mom, one’s a mom-to-be. My office is in our property, and I have an incredible staff who could help out and who were incredibly forgiving if I had to go to nurse. Instant messaging became my new best friend. I’d be IMing to the office from 50 feet away. I never took a maternity leave. Everything we’ve done is sort of tribal, which is sort of funny because a herd of goats is called a tribe. I also have a husband who works from this property, and that’s super-fortunate for me.
Many people look at life on a farm as being rather idyllic, but I imagine it’s also a lot of messy hard work. What’s it really like to live and raise a family on a farm?
Messy is a good word! There are a lot of jobs no one wants to do, like cleaning out the chicken coop. It’s a really long day, but for me it’s my gym. I don’t have a gym membership. All that plus carrying around a 3-year-old is a good workout.
You and your husband are big proponents of the slow food movement. How do both of you, two busy professionals, incorporate that in your own life?
After we left L.A., we subconsciously changed our lives. We cook, we have people over, we almost never go out. A lot of what we do is based around the kitchen. We’re lucky to live in this bountiful place. We’re really connected to everything we’re consuming, and we hope to create a world that we want to leave to our daughter. There are enclaves like this all over the country, these great kinds of communities. It’s pretty much a renaissance.
How do you handle child-care duties?
I really do all the beginning of the day and end of the day stuff. We do lunch and dinner together. In the middle of the day, we trade off. We travel a lot, and we try to do as much as possible together, but financially that’s not always possible. It’s really almost impossible for a woman to be a career woman without a family to help her. We have a community we’ve built up here. I think what Michelle Obama has done in the White House, having her mom be there, is a great message. I do a lot of work at night on my computer. I don’t have a regular schedule, but one of our rules is that we’re not allowed to talk about work at the dinner table. I’m also doing something I really love; I’m making ice cream!
You met your husband in Tuscany and the whole lifestyle had a profound affect on you both. Why did you move back to the States?
Our parents were getting older and we wanted to start a family. I think one day we’ll move back to Europe for Douglas; he’s totally into that slow way of life. But we want to be here while our parents are young enough to enjoy our daughter, but old enough to need us to be around.
You’ve said that you think of yourself as “a woman first, and all of these other things after.” Why?
Without sounding too hoity-toity, it would be impossible for a man to do what I do all day. I am reading books and playing with dolls before coffee is even made. I walk into my office and make distribution deals and run back to the house to sing my daughter a song. Then I’m coming back, doing my work and then shopping for food and having a fabulous dinner party and still maintaining a good marriage. I love men and it’s still kind of a man’s world, but bouncing back and forth between being soft and hard is a delicate balance. I don’t think I could have done that if I were a man, although I don’t always do it gracefully.
What are the lessons you hope your daughter will learn from the choices you’ve made in your life?
I hope that Tuilerie will feel compelled to do something to make the world a more beautiful place, and that she’ll follow the road less traveled. I want her to be happy; all mothers want their daughters to be happy.
Former film and advertising producer, and entrepreneur Laura Howard was interviewed by Vicki Larson, Around the Watercooler  contributor. She is a journalist and single mom.