Ree Drummond charmed the world as the Pioneer Woman, and it happened in the most unlikely of ways. She started her blog only as a way to keep in touch with her mother, who was living in Tennessee at the same time she was kicking off her new life in Oklahoma. That was in 2006, and Country Living says it wasn’t long before her blog had a major following.
That simple blog was like a rocket, and Drummond has ridden it all the way to nationwide fame and quite a bit of fortune. Her down-home style and every-woman vibe spoke to people, at the same time the photos of her children, husband, and her ranch life created a sense of exotic simplicity that hearkened back to a time when life was different and — most would say — better. Her blog opened the door to a whole series of business ventures, and while accounts of her net worth varies between $8 and $50 million, depending on your sources, it’s not disputed that “millions” is in there somehow. Not all of that comes from her blog, so how does she really rake in the cash?
Government payments to the Pioneer Woman for land use
Every year, The Land Report publishes a list of the 100 largest landowners in the United States. In 2016, the Drummond family was number 23 on the list, with land holdings that included 433,000 acres of Oklahoma. Some numbers get pretty abstract and meaningless when they get that big, so let’s put that in perspective. That’s the equivalent of owning half the state of Rhode Island, which covers around 813,000 acres.
That’s a huge amount of land, and anyone who follows the Drummond family’s adventures knows they use a lot of it for cattle ranching. But they also get an average of $2 million a year in rent from their largest tenant: the US government.
According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, part of the Pioneer Woman’s land is used for maintaining herds of wild horses and burros. Since 2006, their stewardship of these wild herds has netted them around $23.9 million in government payments.
Ad revenue from the Pioneer Woman’s personal blog
In 2011 — five years after Drummond first sat down and started typing to her mother a few states away — The New Yorker headed out to do a piece on what really went on behind the scenes, in the Drummonds’ day-to-day lives. At the time, they reported her blog got around 23.3 million views a month, and averaged 4.4 million unique visitors.
That’s impressive, but what does that mean in terms of income? They said she was “acutely uncomfortable” at any mention of money, and she was very, very hesitant to reveal just how much she made off her blog. Finally, she admitted that in 2010, she had made something she described as “solidly one million”.
Most people would sign up for that in a minute — it’s why millions of people have given their own blogs a go. Drummond acknowledges it’s been good to her, telling The New Yorker, “It’s definitely a thriving business. If I were a single person living in a city, I could support myself, but I probably wouldn’t have a blog, because I would have nothing to blog about.”
The Pioneer Woman also runs Tasty Kitchen
The Pioneer Woman isn’t Drummond’s only web site… in case you missed it, she started Tasty Kitchen back in 2009. That’s given it plenty of time to build up an avid following, and right from the beginning, the site was all about community, promoting the individual blogs of kitchen members, and sharing favorite recipes.
While it’s not nearly as popular as Drummond’s own site (analytics suggest it gets an average of about a million hits a month), most of the traffic is funneled through her own blog and she says even she finds it an invaluable resource when it comes to community recipes. But the site — which allows anyone to submit their own favorite recipe and features some of the same hearty, down-home style cooking as fans of the Pioneer Woman are accustomed to — still has a devout following that undoubtedly provides just one more community-driven revenue stream. According to her own one-year-anniversary post, “… the site is kinda my baby”.
The Pioneer Woman makes money from her memoir
In 2009, Drummond took to her blog to explain why she had written her memoir, Black Heels to Tractor Wheels. She said that when she had first been approached by a publisher in 2007, she had no intentions of writing any kind of book — except, perhaps, a cookbook. Even that fell by the wayside, when she and her potential writing partner “… just sorta lost interest, diving into our respective domestic purgatories.”
She says she continued to push back against the idea of a memoir, thinking no one would care about her own personal love story and change in lifestyle. But people did care, so much so that Forbes reported it wasn’t long after her memoir hit shelves that she could add another title to her litany of titles: New York Times Best-Selling Author. The book hit — and sat at — #2, and it was #2 on The Wall Street Journal’s list of top selling books, too. That’s a lot of copies sold, and that’s not all we’re talking about when we talk money, either. In 2010, Deadline reported she had sold the movie rights to Columbia Pictures for an undisclosed amount.
Pioneer Woman owns The Mercantile
On October 31, 2016, three years of work and renovation on an old building in Pawhuska, Oklahoma came to an end, and Drummond opened the doors on a completely new business venture: The Mercantile. The store is a little bit of everything: general store, restaurant, bakery, and deli, all filled with hand-picked items that might seem to have nothing in common, save the fact they caught Drummond’s eye. Customers lined up around the block when The Merc opened, and Country Living says the flood of people absolutely hasn’t slowed down. They estimate the 25,000 square foot property gets an average of 6,000 visitors a day. That’s a ton of people, but even more impressive is that it’s not unheard of for the day’s numbers to reach a whopping 15,000 people.
That’s a lot of people eating at the restaurant and picking up bags full of Pioneer Woman-approved goodies, so let’s just put these numbers in perspective. The town of Pawhuska only has about 3,500 residents, meaning Drummond’s store alone doubles the number of people in town every day… at least.
The Pioneer Woman owns The Boarding House
Can’t get enough of the Pioneer Woman vibe? In April 2018, she opened her own eight-room hotel called The Boarding House, located in the same little Oklahoma town as her two-story store. When she announced the project on her blog, she described it as having “… suites so comfortable and cozy, Marlboro and I are going to want to move into one.”
The Pioneer Woman Boarding House comes with a full complement of what they describe as “cowboy luxury,” wrapped up in suites with names like “The Tack Room” and “The Prairie Room”. Today reported that each reservation came with guaranteed reservations at The Mercantile’s restaurant, and if you’re wondering how much staying here will set you back, it’s not cheap. Room rates vary between $149 and $279 a night (as of opening, via Country Living), and it’s just as popular as you’d expect. Reservations went fast, and by the time the website was live for two hours, the hotel had already been booked for the next six months.
The Pioneer Woman has a massive Walmart collection
Drummond built her empire on her connection with the every-person, and in 2015 she launched a full line of kitchenware designed to speak to the people who had been religiously following her family’s adventures. She told Delish that it was a natural thing for her to do, saying, “I don’t respond to handbags, or clothes, or vacations, but I respond to bowls. I just had to find the right partner, and make sure they understood Pioneer Woman, and what I’m about.”
That partner was Walmart, and since its inception, her line has gotten several overhauls and expansions. It’s not just about the kitchenware — there’s also bedding, pillows, food storage devices, and table linens, too. In her interview with Delish, she talked a little bit about just how chaotic her merchandise line is, saying there’s a ton of different patterns and colors, but they all work together to form what she calls “an eclectic mix.” Her favorite things? The rolling pins.
The Pioneer Woman has children’s’ books
Drummond has so many projects going on that it’s tough to believe she has time for all of them, especially when she’s also been helping on the ranch, caring for her family, and home-schooling the kids. But according to her, one of her favorite projects has been her children’s book series and, in particular, Charlie the Ranch Dog.
Written from the point of view of her beloved Basset Hound, Charlie (who died in January 2017 after a long battle with lymphoma) and illustrated by Diane deGroat, the book was just one in a series that includes titles like Charlie and the Christmas Kitty and Charlie the Ranch Dog: Stuck in the Mud. She’s also come out with another series of children’s books based loosely on herself: the Little Ree series. She told Design & Living, “It’s sort of autobiographical… It’s not my story … but it’s a parallel to my story.” At the time, she was working on still more Little Ree books, promising many more to come in the future.
The Pioneer Woman’s cookbooks
Sure, you can find a ton of recipes on her blog, but Drummond has also packaged them up into a series of cookbooks that started way back in the days when her blog was only clocking about 2 million hits a month — way back in 2009. The first was The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Recipes from an Accidental Country Girl, and even then, Publishers Weekly says she already had enough clout and enough fans that the book was the #1 pre-ordered hardcover on Amazon.
Drummond also said that a cookbook was almost always in the works, and the wheels were turning from the time she met her editor in September 2007 — the same time she was dragging her heels about writing a memoir. By 2017, she was on her fifth cookbook, and told Design & Living that she’d learned a lot along the way — especially about photography. Even though Drummond admits there’s a lot about that first cookbook that made her cringe, there was nothing she would change. “Even though I look at it now and could say, ‘Oh, this should be better,’ I wouldn’t change a thing about it. It was my first cookbook.”
The Pioneer Woman’s public appearances
Every so often, you’ll see Drummond making an appearance here or there, signing books, speaking, doing cooking demonstrations, hosting events, and even appearing at team-building and corporate hospitality events. She doesn’t do that for for free, and according to the Celebrity Speakers Bureau, she charges anywhere between $50,000 and $100,000 for speaking engagements and public appearances.
Drummond has been booked at a wide range of speaking events, including the Country Living Fair in Atlanta, on the campus of North Central College in Naperville, Illinois, and even for family and genealogy events like RootsTech 2014. Since Drummond’s work touches on so many areas of everyday life — and beyond — she’s tapped to appear in a wide range of events and conferences — even some pretty surprising ones. For anyone doubting her practical ranching experience, she was also a keynote speaker at the 2018 Cattle Industry Convention. Add in her regular book tours, and it’s a wonder she’s ever at home, much less finding any spare time.