Rusty and Julie Bulloch, owners of the Bulloch Family Ranch in Lakeland, Fla., don’t see anything unusual about the outreach program that they run for troubled teens on their family ranch, though most would call what they do remarkable. Along with their two biological children, Amanda and Brodie, the Bullochs have welcomed close to 30 young people in need of help and guidance into their home over the past 16 years.
“One of our goals is to teach them that nothing in life is free and easy,” says Rusty, a high school football coach, cowboy, and farrier. “You have to earn everything.”
By working and living on the 15-acre ranch, the teens learn the value of faith, discipline, and living off the land (the Bullochs keep a large garden and raise horses, cattle, and chickens). Between farm chores and the equipment rental company Julie owns and operates, there’s plenty of work to go around. The teenagers receive room and board and are expected to contribute to daily chores.
“Our last few kids have been street kids, gang members,” says Rusty, who hopes a year on the ranch will teach the teens discipline and a stronger sense of family values. “Out here, you can see a cowboy reaching out to a former gang member, and all of a sudden they’re working together on a fence and wrestling in the backyard. That’s when we know we’re doing something here.”
Many graduates of the Bulloch Family Ranch now have families of their own, and most of the ranch’s alumni continue to call and visit Rusty and Julie on a regular basis.
“We have a huge extended family” says Julie, “and it just keeps on growing!”
The Bullochs’ cowboy mission project has even garnered national interest; the UP Network will be airing season 2 of “The Bulloch Family Ranch,” on June 4 at 10 p.m. ET.
“[The television part] doesn’t even seem real,” says Rusty. “To us, it all just happened naturally. We’ve realized that you don’t have to have lots of money, you just have to have heart. Anyone can give of themselves.”
Rusty and Julie’s greatest hope is that the kids they’ve taken in will go on to “pay it forward” in their own lives, helping others in their communities in the same way they were once helped.
“We want to show our kids that through God, all things are possible,” says Rusty. “But you have to be willing to work for them.”