Brad Bellah

Rancher
Throckmorton, Texas


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Brad Bellah is a sixth generation rancher living and working on his family’s cattle ranch, the R.A. Brown Ranch, in Throckmorton, Texas, which got its start in the 1890's when his great great great great grandfather, R.H. Brown, bought land in Throckmorton County. After graduating from Texas Tech University, Brad planned to start a career in the city, but the opportunity to return to his hometown and carry on the family legacy presented itself.

Read as: his dad needed help, and he needed a job.

Brad, like most farmers and ranchers, grew up in the family business, which has holdings in both Throckmorton and neighboring Haskell counties. Today, Brad couldn’t imagine life any other way. Striving to do better, his ultimate goal is to not only maintain, but also improve and grow what his father and grandfather have built. His family business operates about 75 percent ranching, with between 5,000 and 10,000 head of beef cattle depending on availability, and 25 percent cultivation.

Raising his kids where so many generations of his family grew up and raised their own families adds an element to life that few people today get to experience, and it’s something Brad does not take for granted.

The one room schoolhouse my Pop and his nine siblings attended sat on a ranch my dad now runs. I can’t put into words how I feel when my dad and I ride past those school steps, and I can’t wait for the day when the twins are riding alongside us.
— Brad Bellah

Brad was recently featured in Farmland, a 90-minute documentary produced by an Academy-Award winning producer, about six diverse ag producers in their 20s sharing their personal stories of producing food for the nation’s consumers. With 60 as the estimated average age for a farmer in America, the film shows the successes and struggles of several young farmers and ranchers who represent the next generation of food and textile producers in the United States.

“I want to ensure future generations of my family will be able to feed future generations of America. I do my part in ensuring that by managing resources both for what’s needed today and what will be right for tomorrow.”

Brad is not only setting an example for future generations of his family, but for future generations of farm families across America.

Brianna Hall Bigbee

The Bleacher Babe
Muscle Shoals, Alabama


As a child of a southern rodeo family, Brianna Hall Bigbee held equal admiration for her home state of Alabama as she did of the the ladies and fashion of the West. When she found herself dating a professional rodeo athlete, she became accustomed to weekends in the bleachers with other “bleacher babes”—discussing fashion, makeup, and hair tips between events. Long days in the bleachers sparked the idea for a western fashion blog to serve as a catalyst for a rich community of rodeo wives - and girlfriends, and moms!

Once I figured out different hair and makeup tricks that got the job done, I couldn’t wait to dish on the new products I found with other women who shared the same struggles. It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it! I thought to myself, if only I could connect with more girls like myself.
— Brianna Hall Bigbee
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Through Instagram, Brianna discovered a few interesting blogs, but noticed a lack of accounts catering to her lifestyle. She took this as an opportunity to create a blog, as it could become the perfect avenue to share western fashion industry and rodeo world resources she would come across while on the road. And with that, the Bleacher Babe was born.

Brianna’s creative outlet quickly evolved into a home-based business, where her love for fashion and quest for affordable pieces turned into an overnight hit. The Bleacher Babe brand launched Brianna as a rodeo fashionista and western lifestyle influencer in large part to her ability to seize an opportunity to cultivate rich relationships and establish opportunities for collaboration. In addition to the blog, Brianna launched a buy-and-sell Facebook group - The Bleacher Babe’s Closet - where women could make money and save money selling their gently used clothing. The idea spread like wildfire and led to Shop Bleacher Babe, an online western fashion marketplace where western-inspired boutiques can sell online, similar to Etsy and Ebay.

As her platform continued to grow, she created the Bleacher Babe Squad, which is made up of women representing a wide variety of ages, sizes, locations, and backgrounds—all of whom find sisterhood in their passion for the west and sense of style and share about it on social media.

The sky is the limit as Brianna has worked alongside networks like RFDTV to produce events like the annual “The Bleacher Babe” Fashion Shows at RFDTV’s The American Rodeo, to cover Round Top Antiques Week with the Junk Gypsy Company, as well as to cover the red carpet at The Kentucky Derby. Her portfolio is busting at the seams with national brand segments, and collaborations with national publications Western Horseman, Cowboys & Indians Magazine, and Barrel Horse News.

Brianna has since married that rodeo cowboy, Cole Bigbee, and is now a new mom to their son, Payson.

Why do we love Brianna?

Never afraid to try something new, Brianna lives life to the fullest and is not one to shy away from the fear of risk or failure. She loves to use her platform to make people feel good inside and out. She believes every girl should feel confident and comfortable in her own clothes, and The Bleacher Babe exists to do just that.

Society tends to make us feel that we should look a certain way. Be your own kind of beautiful.  That’s what is sexy!
— Brianna Hall Bigbee

Part of the vision behind The Bleacher Babe is to provide jobs and be a positive light in the western community. Brianna is also a big advocate for giving back to the community and military through charity events and live auctions during fashion shows.

Style advice?

Wear your clothes, don’t let your clothes wear you. It can be overwhelming; don’t overthink it and take the fun out of the real experience stressing over outfits. Be yourself! If you’re not comfortable in it, don’t wear it! Stick to what you love and feel your best in. Spice it up with fun accessories!


“No grit, no pearl” is Brianna’s motto, and you can find her on these social media handles:

@briannabigbee
@thebleacherbabe
@shopbleacherbabe
@bleacherbabies
@bleacherbabefitness

www.briannabigbee.com






Sean Dietrich

Sean of the South
Santa Rosa Beach, Florida


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Sean Dietrich, a columnist, novelist, and radio show host, is known for his commentary on life in the American South. His daily column on his blog, "Sean of the South," is littered with stories of frequenting front porches, grocery stores, church socials, weddings and funerals, bars, baseball games, classrooms, and other venues he visits as he searches for stories about everyday people: "The unrecognized, who think they're nothing. People you'll never hear about. The unpopular, unknown, and under-appreciated."

Something we can definitely get behind.

A full-time writer and self-proclaimed “adopted son of Alabama,” his work has appeared in Southern Living, The Tallahassee Democrat, Good Grit, South Magazine, Alabama Living, the Birmingham News, Thom Magazine, The Mobile Press Register, and he has authored seven books.

After losing his father to suicide at age 12, he had to quit school by eighth grade to help support his mother and younger sister. He made a living working construction and doing other odd jobs, like delivering newspapers, catering, cooking and working as a maintenance man. He’s also been playing music for money all over the Southeast since he was 17.

Dietrich has channeled the grief, loneliness, and shame that followed him through his teenage years into his writing. "I spent the first half of my life feeling ashamed of what I went through," he said. "Now I'm proud of the immense suffering and pain." He loves to talk to middle- and high-school students to show them there's a light at the end of the tunnel.

His stories touch on hope, goodness, redemption, and kindness, relating an appreciation for the slower, sweeter pace of Southern life in the towns and farming communities his readers call home.

Why do we love Sean?

Sean’s exemplary creativity affords him the opportunity for endless outlets for storytelling, yet, time and time again his stories are often of rural, everyday people and the magic they possess to impact those around them.

 
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Nicolle Galyon

Songwriter
Nashville, Tenn. // Sterling, Kansas


For many of us, the songs Nicolle Galyon writes are directly from our memories of growing up in small town. For some, it’s leaving. For a few, it’s returning.

As a word artist, Nicolle never dreamed she would be one of Nashville’s rising songwriters when she moved to Nashville to attend Belmont University. Yet, today, with her life experiences and the experiences of those around her as her muse, her songs are repeatedly climbing the charts.

This year alone, Nicolle was nominated for Academy of Country Music Song of the Year for “Female” (co-written with Shane McAnally and Ross Copperman), topped the charts with “Tequila” and “Coming Home,” co-wrote Camila Cabello’s - "Consequences" - from her self-titled debut album, and made her Opry debut.

But, frankly, what’s most impressive is although Nicolle’s list of accolades is growing at a rapid pace, her role as a wife, mother, and friend, and digging roots into her rural hometown stay in focus. In a whirlwind of a year, her list of most important accomplishments also include her daughter’s first day of kindergarten, taking her son on a solo-trip to ride trains at Edaville Family Theme Park, building a house in her hometown of Sterling, and establishing an annual scholarship for a graduate of Sterling High School.

That’s right.

The female who is on top of the world is putting down roots in her hometown, where she and her family spend one month every summer and important family weekends, and established a scholarship to encourage the dreamers and doers to write their own stories with Sterling as their launching pad.

Sometimes life - and our passions - remove rural zip codes from our life journey. Instead of spending a life buffering, unable to choose, commandeer a life of both.

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Why do we really love Nicolle?

Nicolle is a case study of your heart belonging to two places. A life where your hometown can be your past and also your future.

Why should you follow Nicolle?
Her Instagram is a dream not solely on her seemingly ability to balance being a wife, mother, friend, and full-time songwriter, but most importantly because of her knack for saying the things we all need to read. Marriages matter. Friendships matter. Downtime matters. Living a full life matters.

Lyndsey Garber

Cowboy Life and Love Stories Photographer
Old Horse Springs, New Mexico


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Lyndsey Garber has grown her photography business from a side hustle to a portfolio with national clientele all while documenting and sharing the western lifestyle and its respective love stories. She’s the woman behind our favorite photos where we tend to get lost for a minute (or thirty) and the pins we pin, and pin, and pin on Pinterest.

Growing a businesses in a rural zip code comes with its own set of obstacles - rural internet, intentional trips to the post office, et al. - but for those who embrace their roots, it comes with even more opportunities simply because of the unique skills distinctive to rural living

As a kid I dreamed of traveling the world and photographing working ranches. Along the way of chasing that dream, I discovered I also had a passion for capturing couples and telling their love stories…and the combination of the two set my soul on fire.
— Lyndsey Garber

When Lyndsey dipped her toes into wedding photography she did what most new business owners do: say yes to every possible opportunity. In doing so, she found herself capturing beautiful images of urban brides and grooms all while having limited in common with those on the other side of her lens.

After shooting another “city wedding,” Lyndsey asked herself, “What if I just shot cowboy couples and ranch weddings?” After all, she could navigate rural directions, despised cliche cowboy poses, and could flank a calf while slinging her Canon 6D Mii DSLR.

Lyndsey found her niche before niches were common marketing speak. She aligned her target client to her personal passions and talents and in doing so she’s catapulted her brand is the standard for ranch wedding photography.

Why do we love Lyndsey?

Lyndsey found her niche before niches were common marketing speak. She aligned her target client to her personal passions and talents and in doing so she’s catapulted her brand into the standard for ranch wedding photography.

And while her brand continues to grow, she continues to pull other aspiring creatives up with her.

 

 
Lyndsey Sullivan

The Field House
Vian, Okla.


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Traditional, yet trendy: it’s the common denominator when it comes to Vian, Okla., The Field House, and Lyndsey Sullivan.

Lyndsey, a wife, mother, and entrepreneur, is not a Vian native; however, in her tenure she’s quickly joined the ranks of the community to elevate Vian’s spirit, curb appeal, and camaraderie. Her journey to the eastern Oklahoma town of 1,466 was not direct. While pursuing a degree in journalism at Oklahoma City University, she began making trips east on I-40 with her college best friend - now sister in law - and noticed similarities from her hometown of Knoxville, Iowa. Namely, the people.

After chasing her on-air dreams as a reporter in the Windy City, Lyndsey returned to Oklahoma, where she married Casey and completed her Masters in Exercise Science at OCU, joined Connors State University as PR Director, side hustled as a freelance broadcaster, and taught broadcasting at Northeastern State University.

Small Town Revitalization

Lyndsey, a dreamer, doer, and connector, had her eyes set on making a bigger, yet local, impact.

Once a bustling trade center during the early 1900s, today Vian’s downtown is relatively quiet. However, with a close proximity to an interstate vein, a bustling lake scene, and a proud community,  the town is on the verge of an awakening.

New boutiques line the downtown area, a new doctor’s office stands proudly on the corner of Main and Blackstone, and as of this year, a new fitness center stands in a polished, historic building. 


Let’s Go

Forty six million Americans - 15 percent of the U.S. population - currently live in rural areas. The CDC reports rural citizens report less leisure-time physical activity and have higher rates of high blood pressure and obesity.

Not on Lynsey’s watch.

The Field House is a gym where traditional meets trendy when it comes to breaking a sweat. In a renovated downtown building, FH brings convenience and an upscale vibe without breaking the bank. The 3,000+ square foot facility is filled with high-end cardio, circuit and unconventional equipment in addition to classes for all skill levels and taste buds.  

While ground level real-estate is committed to everything exercise, the loft brings services from massage therapy to nail care.

Why Should You Follow Lyndsey?

Reviving community staples shows we’re not only investing in the future of communities, but that we’re also honoring our history. The Field House building is a unique example of how we can honor our roots while giving them wings.

FB: /TheFieldhouse | @TheFieldHouseOk

Stephen & Jessica Rose

THE PEACH TRUCK
NASHVILLE, TENN.


 IG: The Peach Truck

IG: The Peach Truck

Stephen Rose spent his childhood in Fort Valley, GA. It was there he became accustomed to the lush peaches his neighbors, the Pearson Farm, produced. Once Stephen moved to Nashville, Tenn., he realized just how one-of-a-kind those Pearson Farm peaches really were. It then became his goal to share the sweet Pearson peaches with as many others as possible.

With the support of his wife, Jessica, Stephen teamed up with the patriarch of Pearson Farm, Al Pearson, and his son and business partner, Lawton, to bring the Pearson Farm peaches to the Music City.

Read as: the birth of The Peach Truck.

Named for the 1964 Jeep Stephen and Jessica use to sell the peaches, the Peach Truck has sold more than 4.5 million pounds of peaches and now ships worldwide, offering more than 40 varieties. Stephen and Jessica have an extremely active role behind the social media handles and have curated an active following of peach lovers and Nashville enthusiasts.

What makes The Peach Truck unique?

Stephen Rose knows what sets their peaches apart – five generations of farming the same Pearson land, and a lot of hard work. He combines the tradition and quality of Pearson Farms with modern aesthetics and marketing to create an incredible following.

Their hands-on business approach allows customers to feel connected with the Rose duo, which is an important component for today’s consumers. It’s a team effort and the content is flowing. Jessica posts recipes and videos and the team triages customer questions.

No question is off limits for The Peach Truck customers. From how to get the peaches they purchased softer to the upcoming truck locations, attention to detail is what makes this business so popular – that and the delicious peaches, of course.

How does this influence rural America?

Whether you’re a cattle rancher or a peach farmer, it ain’t easy.  So many variables affect the outcome of each year’s harvest and that couldn’t be more true for the Pearson Farm.  

Al Pearson openly admits growing peaches can be quite stressful. One bad season with mother nature and that year’s crop is eliminated. Stephen continues to strengthen the bridge from farmer to consumer, which allows customers to have a greater appreciation for the hard work that is poured into every single box of peaches.  

With quality and pride that you can taste, it’s no wonder why Rose has been able to sell millions of peaches.

Danna LarsonDecember 2018
Blaine & Mackenzie Vossler

The Local Branch
Skaneateles, NY


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American Dream: achieving success and prosperity through hard work, determination, and initiative.

Blaine and Mackenzie Vossler, by very definition, are living the American dream. The Local Branch, their creative outlet founded in 2009, has come a long way since the couple sold their belongings, quit their jobs and traveled the country in their Airstream - a Craigslist $3,000 find funded in part by a Kickstarter crowdfunding project - that functioned as a home and studio.

During the formative years of The Local Branch, they developed their brand, crafted their own leather goods and apparel, and sold their products — all made on the road — at craft shows and festivals throughout the U.S.

The plan worked.

People loved their goods and The Local Branch was profitable in its first year.

Specializing in crafting their own leather goods and apparel, as well as showcasing a highly curated collection of other local, USA-made goods, along with antiques and relics from their travels. Blaine estimates up to 85 percent of the store is filled with products either made with his and Mackenzie's own hands or manufactured products designed by them — such as the screen printed apparel that is manufactured from his hand-painted designs.

During their traveling years, they expanded to a permanent booth at Chelsea Market in Manhattan. In addition to selling retail, The Local Branch has offered products wholesale to Urban Outfitters, Free People, Modcloth and more than 30 other local and abroad boutiques. For Mackenzie and Blaine, the story of where the products are made is as important as how they’re made. When you buy a leather holster, the tag may say “Made in Schenectady, NY” or “Made in Palm Springs, CA”, depending where the Airstream was docked at the time of creation. And their products have been shipped from hundreds of post offices across the country.

Bring it Back to Rural America

As much as they loved life on the road and the opportunity to meet their customers in-real-life around the country, the Vosslers eventually decided to commit to a rural lifestyle and dig roots closer to home. With ties to the Syracuse, New York area, they currently run the business from their upstate New York farmhouse and will soon be open for weddings, farm-to-table suppers, retreats, and other events at their homestead. They now sell their goods down the road from their home at their brick and mortar shop in the Finger Lakes town of Skaneateles, NY.

The Vosslers “look forward to the opportunity to create a unique retail space specializing in both accessible and high end handcrafted clothing, accessories, and home goods geared towards men and women alike, while paying homage to the history and culture of New York and the Finger Lakes region.”

Mackenzie and Blaine are an inspiration for anyone pursuing a life on the road and living outside the box.

Mike Wolfe

American Pickers, Antique Archaeology, Columbia Motor Bikes
Leiper's Fork, Tenn.


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No one knows small-town America better than Mike Wolfe, creator and star of American Pickers. Many of us know about the popular History Channel show that follows Wolfe and childhood friend Frank Fritz as they travel backcountry roads searching for antiques and their respective stories, but you might be surprised by the other project’s up Mike’s sleeve:

  • Many of the items purchased on the show are sold at Wolfe’s store, Antique Archaeology, which has locations in Nashville and Le Claire, Iowa.

  • Wolfe partnered with the National Trust to promote the Trust’s “This Place Matters” grassroots campaign.

  • Wolfe plays a critical/influential role in the revival of Columbia, Tennessee, investing in the restoration of some historic buildings and businesses there. Perhaps most notable is Columbia Motor Alley, one of his latest restoration projects located on Columbia’s public square, which was formerly an old Packard dealership.

  • You’ll often find Wolfe telling the tales of his back roads adventures on this blog, On Two Lanes.

"My batteries get charged by looking at old things in new ways.”

"Pennsylvania is my favorite state for picking. It's town after town and dirt road after dirt road. Plus, everything is so much older. I've found my best picks by driving to the middle of nowhere, then taking the first gravel road I see."

Why are rural downtowns important?

“When people think about main streets and downtowns, they don’t think of the ripple effect. The amenities that are on Main Street, the specialty retail and the architecture and all that, are what drives people wanting to live there and build homes there and move their corporations there.

“All of that is the Main Street, the historic part of town—it’s the honey to all the bees. We need to save small-town America, man. Because that’s the roots of our country.”

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Follow Mike


 
Marji Guyler-Alaniz

FARMHER
URBANDALE, IOWA


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While watching the big game in 2013, Marji Guyler-Alaniz, an Iowa native, was struck by the Dodge “God Made a Farmer” spot. However, it wasn’t until a few weeks later she realized only three of the striking images featured women.

That’s where the FarmHer story began.

Marji, who was then working in crop insurance, was armed with a bachelor's in graphic design and an MBA … and a passion for shining the spotlight on women in agriculture. Marji launched FarmHer, making it her mission to bring attention to the many women who are impacting agriculture every single day.

She uses FarmHer as an online showcase of pictures, videos, and stories of women working in all facets of the agricultural industry. To say her following is large is an understatement. With vast social media communities, it’s apparent her vision has caught on. So much so, she partnered with RFD-TV to air “FarmHer on RFD-TV.”

Marji, a wife and mom of two, is using her love of photography in a whole new way, to bring attention to the 30 percent of today’s farmers – women.

What can we learn from Marji?

Not only has Marji allowed us to learn about the many courageous women in agriculture, she has also taught us to follow our passions.

What started as a photography project has evolved into conferences, a tv series, podcast, SiriusXM radio show, and merchandise sales, which are all supported by a strong community of passionate, driven, inspiring women (and men).

We can absolutely learn passion is nothing without follow through. It’s one thing to identify areas of weakness in a system, but a completely different story to take action.

Marji took action, and in doing so she’s showcasing women across the country who are crushing stereotypes every single day in agriculture. Wives, mothers, and sisters are shown taking care of their families as well as their livestock and crops, all while using high-tech equipment and managing complex farming operations.  

How is Marji impacting rural America?

When most people think about agriculture, it’s highly likely they think about men of all ages dominating the field. Marji is ensuring the narrative is changing.

Through the stories, photos, and videos, Marji is reinforcing that women play an active role in agriculture.

She’s giving a platform for women to connect and build community.

She’s providing a path for future generations to be resilient, inspiring, and passion-oriented.


Danna LarsonAugust 2018
Anna Brakefield

RED LAND COTTON
MOULTON, ALABAMA


After a successful tenure in corporate marketing, Moulton, Ala., native Anna Yeager Brakefield returned to her third-generation family cotton farm to take on a new project with her dad, Mark Yeager: Red Land Cotton.

Red Land Cotton takes cotton grown from the red soil on their northern Alabama family farm and turns it into luxury bed linens that are not only available in a brick-and-mortar space in downtown Moulton (pop. 3,471), but also online at redlandcotton.com.

An accomplished graphic designer, advertising professional, and Auburn University alumna, Anna deviated from her Nashville career plans and relocated to rural America to lead the sales, design, marketing, promotion, fulfillment, and other duties as self-assigned.

“I spent a great deal of my early childhood and onward focused on leaving Moulton,” Brakefield shared. “I returned with more skills and things to offer."

 
There is something to be said about a small town community, and a community that respects agriculture. There is a lot to be said for the cultural richness that happens in a big city, but small towns and cities are what keeps America going. I probably would not have had a newfound respect for Moulton had I not experienced other things.
— Anna Brakefield
 
 
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What character traits define Anna?

Known for her remarkable and tireless work ethic and creative instincts, Brakefield is willing to go the extra mile regardless of the task. She brings a contagious positive energy and passion into her work, and her commitment and intentionality toward creating 100 percent American-made products is something we can all take a lesson from.

How is she impacting rural America?

Being a startup business in an industry that has struggled for decades in the United States is no small task, and Anna is committed to finding new ways to use the cotton from her family’s farm to expand the company’s offerings. Recognizing that their all-American-made products have struck a chord with their customers, Anna has quickly become an influencer an advocate in this space as the company gains more and more attention.

Red Land Cotton is grown and ginned in Alabama, spun and woven in South Carolina, finished in Georgia, and shipped from Alabama – making it 100 percent American made. Since starting Red Land Cotton, Anna and her dad Mark have found a unique way to blend art and agriculture, striving to deliver the purest product possible directly from their farm to their customers’ homes. Their intentionality in creating a product that is exclusively manufactured in America has set their products apart from any other linens you can buy.

After partnering with vendors in the southeastern United States that are still producing fabric (a rare find these days), Red Land Cotton shipped its first bed sheets in October of 2016. Since then, the family-owned business has experienced steady growth and expansion with more than $1 million in sales in its first year, and is attempting to spark a revival of the once-thriving textile business in Lawrence County.

The Red Land Cotton website states, “As we’ve traveled in this journey, our hearts have hurt over the empty manufacturing businesses that once employed so many American workers.” Many of these businesses were once thriving in rural communities, and Anna and Mark understand how important these mills are to these small towns. As a result, Red Land Cotton is dedicated to doing their part in bringing manufacturing back to the United States and helping to create and sustain American jobs, with a long-term goal of using all the cotton their farm produces in their own textiles.


Danna LarsonAugust 2018
Cody Creelman

COW VET & ENTREPRENEUR
ALBERTA, CANADA


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Dr. Cody Creelman, known to many as the “Cow Vet,” is the practice owner of Veterinary Agri-Health Services located in Alberta, Canada. Additionally, he's a partner at Mosaic Veterinary Partners Group, where he owns four other practices. The Mosaic Veterinary Partners is a group of veterinarians, with diverse backgrounds in veterinary medicine and practice ownership, who strive to elevate rural mixed animal practices through investment, management, and practice support.

Cody’s veterinary focus is, you guessed it, cattle.  

Not only does Cody use his vet experience, entrepreneurial endeavors, and business savvy to directly impact rural communities and to provide services to local cattle ranchers in Alberta, he also uses social media, his podcast, and vlog to share daily veterinary stories in an educational - and extremely entertaining - way.

While marketing his veterinary practice served as the foundation for his digital communications, Cody found a niche in agriculture advocacy by identifying the ideal formula for tackle heavy-hitting animal science topics like bovine pathology, large animal surgery, cow/calf and feedlot production medicine: he’s relatable.

Simply, Cody uses his witty sense of humor as the catalyst for showcasing the daily life of a veterinarian and the situations - and respective decisions - that agriculturalists tackle daily to provide the best care for their livestock.

What makes Cody unique?

Turning chaotic and nerve-wracking situations into relatable, lighthearted learning moments is a talent few possess, yet Cody does so while creating content that often reaches viral levels. And, transparency is key. He admits when he is sees something for the first time, is in over his head, or even when he needs to consult vet school notes, or the internet, to strategize next steps.

Regardless if viewers are from rural or urban backgrounds, they’re able to be part of Cody’s day, understand his explanations, and learn something they probably never considered they’d want to know.

How is Cody impacting the agricultural industry and rural communities?

While we could focus on the many facets of Cody’s impact on rural communities, a simple look at his ability to connect beyond his target customer audience and reach an audience hungry for science-based, educational agricultural entertainment, provides an inspirational look into how Cody is directly impacting the agricultural industry.

Then, layer on the vision of investing in rural communities to provide high-quality medicine and you’ll find from sun up to sun down (and, let’s be honest, even after hours), Cody is driven to create an impact.

Cody gives an unprecedented look at his daily life as the Cow Vet, which not only allows his followers to ride along as he visits with clients, but gives the public a better understanding of the challenges he faces.

Every single day is different. Read as: every day brings something Cody hasn’t experienced before. This is also true for the exposure Cody is giving to cattle farmers and ranchers. Rarely, if ever, is the general public able to see farmers as the caring and dedicated people they are. Cody, through his virtual connection to his viewers, shows how far cattle farmers are willing to go in order to do what is in the best interest of their herd. For example, in one vlog, Cody is shown doing a self-taught surgery on a calf with a bilateral nasal cleft. While the farmer requested anonymity in order to keep their purebred operation judgement-free for the defect, he later said (after the video went viral) he wished they had been more transparent because the feedback and support were remarkable. In fact, most comments noted how impressed the viewers were with the dedication the farmer had to save the young calf.



Our favorite vlogs

Danna LarsonAugust 2018
James Decker

LAWYER, FARMER, MAYOR
STAMFORD, TEXAS


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James Decker is a lawyer, farmer, and mayor in Stamford, Texas, and a shareholder in the Shahan Guevara Decker Arrott law firm. James represents rural property owners and business owners in a variety of legal matters, with a special focus on the intersection of estate planning, probate, and real estate law with agriculture and oil and gas concerns. James also represents several municipalities and political subdivisions and owns a title insurance company serving two rural West Texas counties.

James is a member of the American Agricultural Law Association, the State Bar of Texas John Huffaker Agricultural Law Course Planning Committee, the Texas Land Title Association, and the Oil, Gas, and Energy Resources and Real Estate, Probate, and Trust Law sections of the State Bar of Texas.

Outside of the practice of law, James is a co-owner in his family’s commercial real estate, farming, and cattle operations. He is also an event chairman at the Texas Cowboy Reunion, vice president of the Stamford Art Foundation, president of the local economic development corporation, and a member of the Texas A&M College of Agriculture Development Council.

James is a 2006 Agribusiness graduate of Texas A&M University and a 2009 graduate of Texas Tech School of Law. James resides in Stamford with his wife Lauren, a rancher and field representative for Congressman Jodey Arrington, and their daughter.

What character traits make James stand out?

Trusted by the people of his town, which was solidified when they voted him in as mayor, James cares about providing great service to his clients and treating them as friends. As a lawyer at Shahan Guevara Decker & Arrott, James is part of a company that specializes in efficient, straightforward service for agricultural and rural clients. As he says, he represents the kind of people he enjoys being around.

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James-Decker-Ruralist
James-Decker

How is he impacting rural America?

While still in the thirty-something club, James’ resume includes more accomplishments than most of us will achieve in a lifetime. James fulfilled his promise to return to his hometown of Stamford and serve as a leader in the community -- as a lawyer, providing representation to those in rural communities, and now most recently as mayor.

As someone with an agricultural business/economics background who was raised in and around production agriculture, James didn’t always know that he wanted to be a lawyer, but he did know that he wanted to be in the professional realm in rural West Texas. When he discovered a limited number of people involved in the law who had an innate understanding of how agriculture works and how its people tick, and very few ag lawyers with ag backgrounds, he saw a unique opportunity. As a lawyer he now works to help people with their various businesses and see the ins and outs of agriculture and real estate, oil, and gas—all different things that are engines of the rural economy.

His commitment to his hometown of Stamford, both before and after being elected mayor, stands second to none. From restoration of historic buildings to addressing the city’s water needs to helping revive the Texas Cowboy Reunion and the town’s historic theater, he’s had a hand in it all. And what he’s accomplishing in Stamford is setting an example for other rural towns all across America to follow.

James works tirelessly to build and advocate for a better future in rural America. He posts weekly essays about new ideas and vision for the revival of rural America in several Texas newspapers and on the Rural Revival website.

 
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Danna LarsonAugust 2018
Mary Heffernan

FIVE MARYS FARMS
FORT JONES, CALIFORNIA


Carhartt-wearing, lamb-pulling, small-town business owner Mary Heffernan, her husband, and her four kids once called Silicon Valley home. It’s where they flourished as small business owners, Brian as an attorney, and planned to raise their four girls, all named Mary.

It’s peculiar, then, to see how seamlessly they fit into their Northern California community, today. It’s as if they were made for this life, which, to be fair, we believe they were.

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Jump back a few years, and you’ll find the Silicon Valley-based Heffernans with local-fare restaurants on the business roster and providing high-quality protein to their customers as a top-shelf priority. After working with local farmers to supply their restaurants, Mary and Brain decided they could take on the challenge themselves.

With deep roots in California agriculture, they began their search for a ranch to fit their needs. Insert the historic Sharps Gulch Ranch in Fort Jones, California. After eight weekends of ranching from afar, the Heffernans packed up their four girls and moved to their new-to-them 780-square-foot ranch cabin.

Today, in addition to being the face behind the @FiveMarysFarms social handles, which not surprisingly has a loyal, engaged following, Mary leads the charge of marketing, packaging, and shipping ranch-raised beef, pork, and lamb across the country. And, in 2018, the Heffernans took over the historic local bar to create a community gathering place to serve ranch-raised protein and their favorite cocktails.

With a rule of taking care of livestock before themselves and pouring into the local community as though it’s her full-time hustle, Mary is the epitome of what it means to be a Ruralist.

What makes Mary a shoo-in for The Ruralist?

Although Mary has farming roots in her family tree, her ability to relate to the most novice agricultural customer is a skill not many achieve, even with years of communications training. Mary has identified a common denominator with her online - and in-person - community, and that’s being a mom.

It’s her duty to feed her children safe, nutrition food, which are the same standards she sets for her customers.

Transparency - even on the tough days of ranching - is important to Mary. From writing of their latest vet technique (learned via YouTube) to sharing the latest photo of Tiny (Mary’s youngest Mary) holding the newest piglet, customers have the opportunity to learn about ranching and the perseverance needed to face and work through those challenges every day.

How is she impacting rural America?

First, investing in a small town is the utmost sign you’re planting roots. While the Heffernan family got their start in an urban setting, they’re showing Ft. Jones they’re in it for the long haul. As they revitalize one storefront - then another - they’re bringing life into their rural community.

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Second, the time commitment of sharing her family’s ranching story is second-to-none. Mary uses social media to show a real-life, behind-the-scenes account of her family’s daily ranch life, which allows customers to see exactly how their products are raised and experience the journey from first breath to the livestock’s “one bad day.”

Mary, notably, gives an unfiltered account of her day-to-day. This means, customer or not, her followers are learning about agricultural topics they might not otherwise have access to.


Danna LarsonAugust 2018
David Hernandez & Tereasa Surratt

CAMP WANDAWEGA
ELK HORN, WISCONSIN


Proprietors? That’s a $100 word to describe David and Tereasa. More like reluctant innkeepers.

When they purchased Camp Wandawega, David’s childhood getaway, preserving it was their only goal. In someone else’s hands the vintage buildings and cabins would have met their demise to make room for cookie-cutter lake houses (the last thing the world needs).

Instead, they brought Wandawega Lake Resort back to its former modest glory: a place where folks can reconnect to the simpler pleasures of a simpler time, and that is something this world needs.

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By day, Tereasa is a creative director at Ogilvy & Mather, and by night she’s an author, stylist, contributing editor, and a flea market junkie. David, an executive creative director at Ogilvy and founder of The Royal Order of Experience Design, is an avid preservationist. Additionally, he serves on the board of the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust.

When David and Tereasa are not renovating old buildings, they can be found rescuing old cars, trucks, boats, and trailers. Breathing new life into other people’s unwanted stuff is kind of a thing for them. Simply, they’re fascinated by anything old, and they’re committed to the constant upkeep that their weekend retreat requires.

Rather than let a storied, Wisconsin getaway fade into the forest, this Chicago couple purchased Camp Wandawega and began an adventure of rebuilding the 25-acre camp where David summered as a kid. As a result, David and Tereasa created a private haven for creatives. It’s a place that celebrates all the great things we love about rural living and connects people to the simple pleasures of simpler times.

Guests immerse themselves, their friends, and their families into the whole old-school camp experience, which features a full slate of recreational camp activities.

No modern conveniences? It’s all part of the charm.

Guests want not with VIP access to a private beach, private fishing pier, canoeing, boating, fishing, hiking, biking, horse shoes, tennis, shuffleboard, archery, campfires, and s’mores. And, yes, it is just like it sounds - the perfect country getaway.

Featured in major brand collaborations, product partnerships, case studies, films, music sessions and videos - people can’t seem to get enough of Camp Wandawega.

(And, honestly, neither can we.)


Danna LarsonAugust 2018
Natalie Kovarik & Jantanna Williams

RANCH WIVES BEEF COMPANY
ORD, NEBRASKA + THREE FORKS, MONTANA


Growing up in the agriculture industry, long-time childhood friends Natalie Kovarik and JaTanna Williams were raised to understand the benefits of ranch-direct vs. store-bought beef. As rural Montana natives who married ranchers and began families of their own, it was only a matter of time before they realized the ability to purchase quality, trusted, family-raised beef is a privilege often afforded to ranching families alone.

Naturally, they were determined to change the game, and Ranch Wives Beef Company was born. Read as: two best friends are living the reality of their childhood dreams: they (together with their husbands) are working with their best friend and making a difference in the world.

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Their mission is simple: deliver quality beef direct from their ranches to your family. Friends, this means high quality Angus meat shipped right from the ranch to your front door.

As sixth-generation stewards of their land and livestock, the Ranch Wives Beef Company families take great pride in the way of their operations. Their cattle are raised in the luscious, rolling hills of Nebraska and the vast mountainous valleys of Montana and are cared for by the Ranch Wives team. From conception to harvest, their livestock spends a majority of their lives grazing lush green grass before finishing with nutritious grains to maximize marbling and taste.

What traits earn Natalie and JaTanna a seat on the Ruralist?

Natalie and JaTanna value integrity, which is intertwined in their company through the way they treat every member of their team to the finest quality cuts of Angus beef.

Not unlike most ranching families, the families behind Ranch Wives Beef Company exude love and respect for the livestock and land that has been passed down for generations. Their cattle receive high-quality care in order to provide a high-quality product.

How are they impacting their rural communities?

While most showcase the highlight reel, Natalie and JaTanna use Instagram to give their community a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the daily ups and downs at their ranches. Honestly, who doesn’t love seeing cows grazing with mountains as their backdrop? From chores to moving cattle, and from fixing fence to delivering meat to the locker, they’re creating an awareness around every bit of hard work and care that goes into bringing homegrown, quality beef to dinner tables across America.


Danna LarsonAugust 2018
Linc Kroeger

PILLAR TECHNOLOGY
DES MOINES, IOWA


Linc Kroeger, the Vanguard of Future Ready Iowa at Pillar Technology, is making waves in the agricultural industry and doing so while growing deeper roots in Iowa.

As a company focused on consulting and business strategy, digital experience, user experience, and software craftsmanship, you may know them by a few of their notable projects like developing drone technology, the Tractor of the Future, and the Internet of Things.

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Linc is pioneering a new business model that brings tech jobs to rural America, something previously unheard of. As Linc states from his own experience, “It took me 15 years to get my computer science degree, but I had to leave Iowa because there was really nothing in tech. I had a great education but there were no jobs.” Linc is paving the way so the next generation of techies can have a different experience.

Linc was appointed by Governor Kim Reynolds to the Empower Rural Iowa task force which is chartered to create solutions for the unique challenges of rural Iowa in order to maintain its vibrancy and ensure there is opportunity everywhere. Linc is also a board member of the Technology Association of Iowa, which unites Iowa's technology community by connecting leaders, developing talent, driving public policy, and fostering diversity and inclusion.

What makes Linc stand out for the Ruralist?

Linc is driven by his vision for a better future for those around him, with a big heart for bringing vision and opportunities to communities who have been left behind. He is a visionary who recognizes and identifies challenges and risks, and then takes action on how to minimize or solve these issues. You can count on Linc to bring passion, integrity, and commitment to everything he does.

How is he impacting rural America?

Linc Kroeger is taking an industry that is virtually non-existent in rural America and not only paving the way for technology to have a place here, but creating a model that will stand as an example for many industries to learn from as they seek to grow their footprint in rural communities.

Here’s a little background behind Linc’s latest project: Pillar Technology has created a Forge network of business strategists, digital experience creatives, and software artisans collaborating to solve business problems in a no-constraints think tank. With Forge locations in four major cities (and more on the radar), recently Pillar Technology has turned its focus to rural America, signing their first agreement with a rural community to open a Forge location in Jefferson, Iowa.  

This new rural Forge location will start by working with the local high school and community college to teach technology-focused classes. Students who graduate from the community college software development program can apply for an 8-18 month software development training academy - which can lead to a full time job with Pillar with a starting salary between $55,000-$60,000. Oh, and did we mention Pillar Technology is picking up the training academy tab? This means an opportunity for people 21-22 years old to live in a rural community with no college debt, making around $60,000 a year - near the top 20 percent in rural Iowa - and after two years of work experience, their salary will rise to above $75,000 a year.

And the man behind it all? Linc Kroeger. Growing up in rural Iowa, Linc realized firsthand he would have to leave the state if he wanted a career in technology. So he’s taking his experience and using it to "Forge the Future" for the next generation of rural Iowa techies.

 
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Danna LarsonAugust 2018
Gretchen Reiter

POLITICAL STRATEGIST
TEXAS


Born in Texas and raised in Oklahoma, Gretchen Reiter is no stranger to ranch life. She is also no stranger to Washington, D.C. politics. As a seasoned-expert when it comes to political and policy communications and more than a decade of experience under her belt, Gretchen launched Highline Strategies in 2014. Highline Strategies focuses on strategic communications, campaign planning and advocacy, crisis communication management, and media training.

Her résumé is stacked with past positions like Executive Director of Public Notice, an independent non-profit focusing on how governments policy affects American’s well-being financially; Partner at Endeavor Global Strategies; and let’s not forget her two and a half years spent with the George W. Bush Administration as Deputy Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Public and Media Affairs.

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Have we mentioned she juggles life as a wife, mom, and rancher while traveling from rural Texas to D.C. nearly weekly? Gretchen does it all and does it all well. A quick browse of her Instagram or Twitter accounts will show a balanced representation of cattle, articles on the newest tariffs and how they affect farmers and her ‘girl gang,’ which is comprised of her three adorable little girls.

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What makes Gretchen ... Gretchen?

Gretchen has an obvious passion for using her talents in the policy realm to represent her rural constituents through her consulting business. Her dedication to representing the ideologies of her clients is instrumental in accurately and effectively taking those concerns of her fellow ranchers straight to Washington. The art of balancing her schedule is admirable and noteworthy.

Bottom line: Gretchen is focused on giving agriculture and farmers a platform in today’s political world.

How is Gretchen impacting rural America?

Gretchen is making herself present in an arena where farmers need the most support and representation - government. By using her agricultural roots and political experience, she uses her consulting firm to assist decision makers and policy influencers with messaging and deliver their agendas to Washington. Gretchen follows policy closely and shares her findings - with commentary - with her base, which not only keeps them up-to-date, but also informs them on how policy will impact them and their farming business.

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Danna LarsonAugust 2018
Scott Stebner

AGRICULTURAL PHOTOGRAPHER
TOPEKA, KANSAS


Scott Stebner is a husband, father, teacher, and creative agricultural communicator with a passion for creating environmental portraits and videos that empower the agricultural community. Simply, Scott creates photos and videos of people with grit.

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Although you might not know it today, Scott grew up a surf bum in Southern California (his words). His family had four acres where they raised sheep and became active 4-H members. Their county fair averaged over two million people in attendance every year, and with so many people walking through the lamb, cattle, and pig barns, Scott learned from a very young age that you have to be proactive in educating the public and always be ready to answer their questions, no matter how crazy they may seem. Because of his upbringing, Scott was drawn to predominantly urban areas teaching kids who had zero connection to agriculture, and he subsequently built successful FFA programs where these kids could participate.

This upbringing was the perfect setup for Scott’s life as an agricultural photographer and communicator. Scott received his bachelor’s degree in agricultural sciences from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, then went on to Kansas State University for his master’s degree in agricultural communications. Having grown up around livestock and spending seven years as an agricultural educator, Scott is drawn to visually documenting the life, culture, and events of American agriculture at the local level. His work can be found everywhere from national magazine advertisements to promotional materials for family farmers and ranchers.

How is Scott unique?

Scott has built a reputation for helping farmers and ranchers succeed, using his gift and passion to both help them and shine a positive light on agriculture. Authenticity is a top quality with Scott, as he seeks to show that same authenticity in the subjects he’s photographing.

How is Scott impacting rural America?

As a nationally-known photographer, Scott is changing the way the world sees agriculture. Based out of Kansas, he is using his passion for photography to educate people about his other passion: agriculture. He travels throughout the country on assignment and loves communicating the heart and soul behind agriculture through an image. These images are telling stories that empower the ag community and help them better tell their story to the urban consumer.

To see the grit of a farmer’s life captured in Scott’s photographs is truly an experience, and something that evokes a different kind of emotion, showing both the pride and humility these farmers and ranchers have in their work.

 
There’s something about a life tied to the land, about working with your hands, that it shapes you. And not just internally, but visually as well.
— Scott Stebner
 

Scott is also a philanthropist, finding creative ways to raise funds for people to advocate for the ag industry. One notable project is the Kansas Farmer photo book, where Scott partnered with the Kansas Farm Bureau to feature photos and stories showcasing the spirit, hard work, and dedication of Kansas farmers and ranchers. All proceeds from the book are contributing to future ag leaders through a scholarship for undergraduate students studying agricultural communications at Kansas State University.

In another project, he used photography to help a non-profit raise enough money to install water distribution points in Ethiopia so families had clean water and young girls could go back to school. The project also funded a bore hole well to help local farmers better manage drought conditions. 

Always exploring new creative ideas, Scott also created a unique photo shoot featuring portraits of PBR bull riders right after they had just been bucked off or had just had a successful ride, and you can see more on his website.


Danna LarsonAugust 2018