Anna Aja

Auctioneer and Rancher
Stanfield, Ariz.

Anna Aja is a third generation auctioneer and a fourth generation rancher who calls the 48th state home. She inhibits a strong passion for helping non-profits reach their maximum earning potential, which she does with a career built on a lifetime of exposure to the auction industry coupled with a decade of experience in communications and event planning within the cattle industry.

While Aja’s résumé is stacked - University of Arizona agricultural economics alumna, Champion International Livestock Auctioneer, Paul Ramirez, mentorship, Mendenhall School of Auctioneering alumna, and Professional Ringmen’s Institute alumna - it’s how she conducts business that is most impressive. 


“I volunteer with all my clients. I want to know the heart of their organization, their mission, and their goals,” Aja shared. “As a conduit between my clients, their organizations, and generous donors, I’m honored to help those to come together to raise money for important things like saving lives, finding cures, and helping people who need it.”

She and her husband, Bass, who is also a fourth generation rancher, operate under the 9F brand, a gift from Bass’ grandmother that had belonged to her father. It stands for the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit as defined in the Bible, Galatians 5:22-23.

With, Anna takes her honest and heartfelt approach to assist each client in reaching and exceeding their goals.

Anna and her husband Bass reside in Stanfield, Ariz. - population 1,900 - with their three rambunctious children who range in age from toddler to first grade.

Why do we love Anna?

She’s equal parts business and I’d like to hike a mountain with this woman. She’s run your event from conception to tear down and let’s get to really know each other over coffee. She’s ensuring clients non-for-profits are funded, and she’s kissing scrapes and dusting bottoms of her three little ranch hands. She’s who you aspire to be, and who you want in your tribe.

Brett Colvin

Pointer and Pine
Whitefish, Montana

When an Airstream serves as your home and office, and you happen to be located on Flathead Lakein Whitefish, Mont., then yes, that pretty much sums it up “living the dream.”

But things aren’t always as they seem. It was a crazy year when Pointer and Pine founder and owner, Brett Colvin, found himself remodeling an Airstream, moving fulltime to Salt Lake City, and rebranding his business. That same year Colvin also found himself on the other side of a stroke, and facing the seizures that followed. Some would call it defeat. Others would call it a defining moment.

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Brett Colvin Pointer and Pine.png
Brett Colvin Pointer and Pine.png

A one man show (well, plus his dog Monte, who happens to be the company mascot), Colvin pressed on, fielding emails, phone calls, orders and shipping, website maintenance - as well as cutting, sewing, and hand painting every flag order. His Instagram feed evolved to showcase his work and Airstream renovation, and his following continued to grow and followed him as he relocated to Whitefish.

These days Pointer and Pine’s custom canvas flags are taking the nation by storm. From small, local brands to household brands like Carhartt, Levi’s, and Pendleton, everyone wants a piece of Pointer and Pine.

And while Colvin may soon be putting the Airstream aside for a home with more permanent roots, perhaps it will always remain a staple of his business. At least, we hope so. 

Walt Dasher

G&R Farms
Glennville, Georgia

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What will Americans do in 15 years when there are not enough farmers to feed our massive country, let alone the growing global population? This is question keeps Walt Dasher, a third generation Georgia farmer at G&R Farms, up at night, and it’s driving him to find solutions.

It started in 2015 when Dasher hiring young adults to work on the farm during the busy Vidalia® onion season.

“Over the years, we found people under the age of 30 in rural areas, like ours, expressed very little interest in farm work. This caused me great concern because we all know that a lack of farmers could create a myriad of problems for our country,” Dasher said. “Can you imagine if we experienced a food supply shortage in the United States and had to depend on foreign countries to feed our families?”

Dasher noted the average age of an American farmer is 58 (source), which continues to trend older each year. Determined to do his part to combat the problem and increase awareness across the country, he created a plan. 

He launched a fundraiser where all proceeds were donated to the Georgia FFA Foundation. While the monetary results were small at first, they were the key to opening a door to a much larger program. 

Soon, National FFA joined the movement and Growing America’s Farmers was established as a non-profit foundation providing college scholarships for future agriculturalists through the National FFA Organization. Since launch, the program has expanded into a multi-tier effort to involve retailers that support educational opportunities for young people aspiring to become America’s future farmers.

My goal is to eventually have support in every state so I can award production ag scholarships to kids with a far-reaching impact, truly showing them American retailers and consumers care greatly about them and where our food comes from,” Walt tells me, speaking of his third year in the program. “By entering into an agreement with the National FFA, it allowed me to offer scholarships nationwide and, therefore, work with retailers across the country. I have been so humbled and blown away by the support we have received, and I am really excited about what we have done—and are doing—for the future of the American farmer.
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Walt Dasher G & R Farms Vidalia Sweet Onions.jpg
Walt Dasher G & R Farms Vidalia Sweet Onions.jpg
Walt Dasher G & R Farms Vidalia Sweet Onions.jpg

A history of innovation

G&R Farms is recognized as Georgia's oldest grower, packer, shipper and marketer of Vidalia Onions. Founded in 1945, as a farm of two acres, the operation has greatly expanded, with the Dasher Family now planting approximately 1,300 acres of the world-famous crop annually. 

This company was the first to sell sweet onions to a major retail chain back in 1970 and also one of the first in the industry to utilize Controlled Atmosphere Storage. Headquartered in Glennville, Georgia, the company also expands to Florida, Peru, and Colombia as well. 

“As a 100 percent family-owned and operated company and one of the oldest active fully-integrated growers, packers, shippers in the industry, we offer a history of quality and premier product that is a testament to our business,” Walt says.

Why do we love Walt and the Dasher family? 

Not only does G&R Farms work to empower tomorrow’s agriculturalists to provide the food supply for our country, they also partner in the community in many ways, supporting numerous events and activities.

Like when Walt’s dad, Robert Dasher, was honored as the 2010 Georgia Farmer of the Year, followed by the elite recognition as the Southeastern Farmer of the Year. He donated his winnings of $17,500 to the Friends of the Glennwanis Hotel for the hotel’s restoration fund. 

The work they’re doing is going to leave a legacy far beyond G&R Farms — they’re investing in the future of America’s farmers and inspiring our future Ruralists in the making. 

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Matt and Mike French

Pioneertown Motel
Pioneertown, California

via @pioneertownmotel instagram

via @pioneertownmotel instagram

It was country before country was cool, and now it’s redefining the west for travelers from around the globe. 

“We want to be the door to the desert,” Mike told The New York Times.

Thanks to brothers Mike and Matt French who purchased and renovated the property in 2014, the Pioneertown Motel is the only official lodging in Pioneertown, Calif., an unincorporated community of the Morongo Basin region of San Bernardino's High Desert.

“To me, Pioneertown is one of the most special places on the West Coast. It really embodies that spirit of the west,” French told The Independent. “There’s this sense of removal that you normally only get when you travel internationally – that feeling where you forget where your cellphone is. It’s kind of like you get to be a kid again here.”

via @pioneertownmotel instagram

via @pioneertownmotel instagram

Pioneertown, with a budding population of 420, is an old Western movie set come to life. Yes, we’re serious.

Since 1946, the Pioneertown Motel has been a safe place to land for wearied travelers and, recently, music festival junkies. The 19-room property was built as a sound structure, unlike movie sets 125 miles to the west, to house talent, crew, and film tycoons. It’s said Gene Autry played poker until sunrise in Room #9. Given, the property was originally created as a waypost for movie stars of old Westerns, we’re buying it. 

Should you know of Pioneertown? The truth is, you’ve more-than-likely seen it tagged on Instagram during Coachella or during an invite-only A-list event. Only 30 miles north of Palm Springs it’s a hub for creatives, entrepreneurs, people sick and tired of clocking their salaried jobs, et al. It’s where you go because phone service is poor. 

via @pioneertownmotel instagram

via @pioneertownmotel instagram

Why do we love Matt and Mike?

They saw an opportunity and seized it, embraced it, and leveled it up. The Pioneertown Motel isn’t incredible because it looks like everywhere else. It’s incredible because it’s 1946 reimagined. It’s where a family of five from nowhere Nebraska can check-in next to the 2019 version of Gene Autry and no one in town would flinch. It’s a safe haven for all kinds of kinds. 

Tess Maune

KOTV Anchor/Reporter
Mannford, Oklahoma

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Known to Oklahomans as Tulsa’s News On 6 award-winning journalist, Tess Maune is a born-and raised El Reno, Okla. native, who on- and off-set represents the stories of everyday people, their interests, hobbies, and smalltown roots. 

Away from the anchor desk, Maune channels her small town beginnings and love for the outdoors by allocating most of her free time to the woods or in the water with her husband, Matt, and their dog, Muffin — and goes noodling almost every day in the summer. 

USE THIS AS A PHOTO CAPTION UNDER THE PHOTO: Her biggest catch to date is a 52-pound flathead.

“I’m proud to showcase outdoor Oklahoma as a woman,” Maune shared (WHERE DID SHE SHARE THIS, THIS NEEDS DEVELOPED.

It’s easy to assume Maune was raised around outdoor adventures, wildlife, and water; however, you would be mistaken. Her life changed course when she was assigned a noodling story for work. 

Noodling, or the art of fishing for catfish using one's bare hands, ultimately led to an even bigger plot twist for Maune. A month after her noodling assignment, Maune found herself on another noodling trip where she met her husband, Matt. 

Matt, the reigning Oklahoma Biologist of the Year, is a wildlife biologist and avid outdoorsman. He continues to introduce her to the vast outdoors world, which is now something they enjoy together.

Editors note: Matt proposed in a tree stand. True story.

It’s no secret I love this great state and can’t get enough of the outdoors here in Oklahoma.

Maune has a big heart for Oklahoma, which she exercises as emcee to fundraise for local and national causes. 

Morgann McCoy

A Well Worn Story
New Glarus, Wisconsin

She describes herself as a designer and seamstress who creates high-quality, handcrafted goods to carry on your story. To be fair, however, she’s creating an incredible story for herself, as well.

It started with a sewing machine, $5,000, and a dream — to transform textiles into heirloom pieces that tell a unique story. 


“I wanted to produce something people want to use all the time and maybe even hand down to the next generation,” McCoy shared. “I focus on durable, timelines products people actually want to wear.”

The result is a product line that includes durable bags, aprons, home goods, and other accessories. Her love of nature has instilled a passion for natural fibers and dyes, and even sourcing textiles directly from farmers. 

In a world where practically everything is mass produced and sold to thousands of people, I appreciate handmade pieces and materials crafted by makers.

Each item is thoughtfully designed and crafted in her small Wisconsin studio, which also happens to be on her twin brother’s farm where he and his wife raise cattle. Her leather source? The herd outside her studio window. 

And as if that wasn’t enough, Morgann shared her craft by bringing an industrial sewing machine to Haiti to help with the start of Sa Voix, a social enterprise to employ young women who are leaving Hands and Feet Orphanage. She continues to serve as a designer and teacher with the organization which allows her to pass on a passion to artisans who are now flourishing as true craftswomen.

We’re always trying to find new, better ways to support farmers and support local.

Hannah Miller

Goin’ Coastal Outfitters + Rockport Cultural Arts District
Rockport, Texas

Hannah Miller, a Texas coastal native and, a practicing digital strategist, worked for two high-profile digital and traditional advertising agencies after earning her Aggie ring during her Masters program. Those positions, however, ensured she spent the majority of her days on the road as they were based in Wisconsin and Ohio, respectively, which a client base stretched across the continental United States. 

A constant since first leaving her hometown of Rockport, Texas, when she headed north for undergrad in Stephenville, Texas, has been the dream of returning and not only riding for someone else’s brand, but her own. That dream, however, seemed impossible. Digital strategy positions with clientele in the food and agricultural industries were not plentiful on the Texas coast. With that knowledge, Miller pursued her Masters in College Station and chased it with a move to Austin to work for a Wisconsin-based agency at their remote office. 

The tides turned when Miller negotiated her already-remote position continue to be remote, however, based in Rockport. The agency agreed. Her travel, though, did not slow down. While she lived at home, she was never there. Miller was headhunted for a new position, remote at that, that promised less travel, more responsibilities, and clients that better fit her agricultural experience. The culture, the work, the everything - except the commute - was perfect. 

Then, on August 17, 2017, Hurricane Harvey happened.

Miller, who was living with her parents as she settled back into her hometown, lost everything as the eye of Hurricane Harvey hit land directly over Rockport.

Maybe it was the chaos. Maybe it was the feeling of vulnerability? Or maybe it was Miller’s calling to continue to dig roots into her hometown.

In the midst of hurricane recovery, Hannah - and her family - launched Goin’ Coastal Outfitters’ first T-shirt, Rockport Strong. Goin’ Coastal, a family-owned, women lead small business is now, a mere two years later, a thriving business with a brick and mortar space and with a 2 year plan to employee more than one FT employee. The first of which, happens to be a co-owner and sister, Abigail. 


It was as if the hurricane strengthened Hannah’s call to return to Rockport in a more permanent - less travel the country - way.

Like a siren, Rockport kept calling until this February Hannah answered.

Today, Hannah is the Executive Director of the Rockport Cultural Arts District, which was created to strengthen and preserve Rockport’s unique reputation as a significant artistic community and be a resource for residents and visitors.

So she’s doing the thing. She’s an advocate for a small business, her travel is now dedicated to personal travel, and she’s a co-owner of a budding small town business.


Matthew Barbee

Rockmill Brewery
Lancaster, Ohio

These days you’ll find Matthew Barbee serving tasty — and traditionally-crafted — Belgian-style brews in a quaint, rural setting, but it wasn’t always that way.

Winemaking runs in Barbee’s family. Naturally, he studied wine, but eventually realized a career in wine wasn’t for him. After stints in Chicago and Los Angeles, Barbee returned to the 19th-century horse farm his mother owned outside Lancaster, Ohio with every intention of building a brewery. The Hocking River, rife with blackhand sandstone, runs through the property, and it just so happens that the minerality of the river’s water is almost identical to the water in Belgium.

Nervous to move home to his Ohio roots, he credits nearby Columbus, Ohio’s burgeoning food and drink scene with giving him the confidence to open his business in 2010. Today, Rockmill Brewery offers a quaint and quiet getaway in a rural setting, becoming a popular setting for weddings, private parties, live music, and photo shoots.

“A lot of people make comments that this reminds them of a wine-country experience. I love that we can provide that here in rural Ohio.”

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A recently-converted historic barn is now home to a cozy, multi-level tasting room welcoming guests with aromas of ash and cherry woods burning in the fireplace. Around back, former stables now house a 30-barrel-a-week brewing operation employings techniques from days of old to churn out its lineup of Belgian-style farmhouse beers. All of Rockmill’s seven Belgian-style beers, which include witbier, dubbel, and tripel, are created so they can be paired with a variety of cheeses, chocolates, meats, and even cigars.

Rockmill Brewery doesn’t serve food, but guests are encouraged to bring their own. The brewery’s website even points patrons to shops where they can pick up foods that go well with the beers. Picnics have become part of the experience on the Rockmill Brewery property, and Barbee sometimes brings in guest chefs to prepare dishes that cater to Rockmill’s lineup.     

In 2016, Barbee expanded the company’s reach with the opening of Rockmill Tavern, a small brewpub in Columbus’ Worley building. Interestingly, the Worley building once served as the horse stables for L. Hoster Brewing Co. — connecting it with the rural vibe of the horse farm.

Rockmill continues to maintain its solid reputation among craft brewers, most recently racking up the “Best of Show” award at the 2018 King of Ohio beer competition.

Mary Celeste Beall

Blackberry Farm
Walland, Tennessee

Photo: Eric Ryan Anderson

Photo: Eric Ryan Anderson

Tucked into the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains is a 68-room East Tennessee lodge some consider the best place to stay in America. Named for the blackberry bushes dotting its property, Blackberry Farm includes a collection of rustic yet warm cottages and farmhouses that sit on 9,200 acres of misty mountain magic.

Known for its impeccable service, Blackberry Farm has something for everyone: fitness buffs will love the daily exercise classes and miles of hiking trails, foodies can expect world-class meals and firsthand lessons, spa lovers will want to spend all day at the Wellouse. No matter where your passions lie, Blackberry Farm will inspire you to try a little bit of everything.

And yet even with all that to consider, the farm is probably most famously known as a culinary powerhouse -- complete with an on-site creamery, bakery, and charcuterie, 180,000-bottle wine cellar, and collection of 600 different bourbons, ryes, scotches, and whiskies.

And the woman behind it all? Mary Celeste Beall. Ms. Beall took sole leadership of the farm when her husband, Sam, died unexpectedly in a snow skiing accident in 2016 at age 39. It was Sam who took the reins from his parents in 2003 and ultimately harnessed the farm's potential. Now, Mary Celeste is carrying on Sam's legacy, stepping into her husband’s role as the proprietor and president of Blackberry Farm. She gracefully juggles the day-to-day challenges of being a mom of five and managing a resort that hosts a couple hundred guests around the clock, not to mention weddings, outdoor concerts, and culinary programs. She has also overseen the completion of a major expansion: a 5,200-acre sprawling guest and residential addition called Blackberry Mountain, scheduled to debut early this year.

Ms. Beall shares her husband’s passion for cooking and entertaining; her love of nature; and now continues to grow the empire as an international destination. Like their father, most of the kids have become avid cooks.

“We founded the Farm on an appreciation of great food, wine, and community. Blackberry Mountain is a really exciting opportunity to further weave that into an experience of adventure and a powerful connection with the natural world.”

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Photo: Shawn Poynter

Photo: Shawn Poynter

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Why we (and so many others) love Blackberry Farm

The farm provides more than 500 local jobs.

Additionally, it has created the idea of a luxury vacation built around agriculture, all built on a foundation of simple Tennessee country life as reinterpreted for guests willing to pay a premium to taste its pleasures without any of its hardships.

Their world-renowned Foothills Cuisine is all about local ingredients and old Southern methods.

Every dish is somehow connected to the farm, using seasonal fruits and vegetables such as sugar snap peas, hen of the woods mushrooms, heirloom string beans, and, yes, blackberries. Critics love its cheeses, jam, and beer.

Chefs around the country long for an invitation to cook in the Barn, the farm’s showcase restaurant built in a 200-year-old barn that Mr. Beall had dismantled and moved from Pennsylvania.

Think of Blackberry less as a hotel, more as a home-away-from-home.

"We all laugh about him, we cry about him, and we are keeping his spirit alive — and that's just the closest thing I'll get," says Mary Celeste. "Sam's goal — and my goal — has always been, "How can we carry Blackberry on for generations?" And it's really just our job not to mess it up."

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Paige Ehnle

No Roots Boots
Metamora, Illinois

Let’s just say this is not your typical boot store. This one rides on the wheels of a ‘72 Airstream and is owned by a 24-year-old farm girl.

Meet Paige Ehnle. Originally from Edelstein, Ill., Ehnle noticed several mobile boutiques and shops opening in her area, which sparked an idea to combine her passion for travel, meeting people, and high quality western and fashion boots into a boot store on wheels. Soon after, No Roots Boots was born.

Seeking to create a business that is authentic to her, she (with the help of family) converted the 31-foot trailer into a mobile shop with shelves and those shelves filled with boots. She now spending summers traveling the Midwest going to markets, fairs, festivals, concerts, and other events where boot lovers might mingle.

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She is a one woman show, finding her inspiration on the road.

There is nothing that inspires me more than driving through Rural America. There is something amazing about driving through towns that are just blips on a map and realizing that someone has built their entire life there. I love seeing this rural revival we have happening as well. People are investing their money to shop small and small town downtowns are growing because of it.

When she does have time off from the road, she puts her roots down in a small town. She opened a brick and mortar shop in Geneseo, Ill. in the off-season. Her focus these days is on building an authentic brand.

As someone who thrives on making people happy, Ehnle’s worked hard to build an authentic brand. That means placing her value on people over profit, and building incredible relationships with other business owners, vendors, and customers. It’s also about offering quality, handcrafted boots.

She knows this business is more about selling boots. It’s helping someone find the perfect boot to match their personal style and instill confidence.

“Each customer is unique; their story, their life, their purpose, and their style is no different. I want my brand to reflect that, to offer boots that are as unique as the women buying them.”

Oh, and we don’t mind those Illinois fields used as the backdrop for her photo shoots, either.

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Micah Fink

Horses & Heroes
Manhattan, Montana

Micah Fink is a family man, Navy SEAL, ironman, woodsman, and hunter. Raised in upstate New York, Fink joined the military in 2003. He racked up 13 combat deployments totaling nearly three years of boots-on-the-ground time in Iraq and Afghanistan as a Navy SEAL and as a private contractor on a special operations force. After 14 years in the military, his return to a comparatively easy civilian life left him severely depressed. In his own words, returning home from combat was the greatest challenge he has ever faced.

Fink found relief from the listlessness, and the numbness, when he started horse packing. The activity is a highly specialized style of backcountry camping in which campers ride horses instead of hike and are accompanied by pack mules to carry their tents, sleeping bags, clothes, food, and cooking supplies.

The deep backcountry of Montana is where Fink finds healing, growth, and transformation. He devotes himself full-time to Heroes and Horses, the Montana-based nonprofit to help troubled veterans find their way in the civilian world. He created an innovative, three-phase reintegration program, which is offered to qualifying combat veterans (at no cost to them) suffering from PTSD.

Heroes and Horses is known for the execution of ideas that change people’s lives through action, inspiration, and the shifting of beliefs. Every summer, Heroes and Horses takes 16 carefully-screened vets through a three-phase, five-month backcountry horsemanship program in Montana and Alaska in order to help them rediscover the confidence and courage that saw them through combat deployments, but which somehow got lost on the long journey home. The program provides extreme expedition-style horse pack trips that teach self-reliance, teamwork and perseverance. Experienced instructors, many who are combat veterans themselves, lead teams of veterans and their pack animals into the wilderness on epic, life-changing journey of discovery. To ensure applicants know they’re expected to show up ready to work, Fink adopted the hashtag #notavacation.

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Micah Fink Heroes and Horses.png

Fink launched Heroes and Horses after realizing, despite the thousands of PTSD-related nonprofits, and the billions spent every year, the statistics on veteran suicide and addiction was growing rapidly. In response to these staggering statistics, he created a veteran nonprofit with programming unlike anything else available. He even adopted 15 wild mustangs for the program, and in the process realized how much the mustangs had in common with the veterans he was trying to help: They were tough and brave and capable of thriving in harsh environments. Fink’s guiding philosophy, with horses and men, is that pressure and time are the essential ingredients of transformation, the same as they are in the universe at large.

Fink continues to inspire groups of people, from all different walks of life, through his unique approach to motivational speaking, and is frequently hired by sports teams and large corporations to ignite innovate thinking within their team members.  

Dean Jacobs

Dean’s Cake House
Andalusia, Alabama

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Every cake is homemade — baked and iced individually — at Dean’s Cake House located in Andalusia, Ala., which is exactly what you’d expect from a venue famously known for the best cakes in the south. And conveniently, also known for making for a great pit stop on the way to the beach.

Owner Dean Jacobs is your quintessential southern grandmother. As a young mother, Dean took a job working at the local grocery store at a time when employees were given stock in the company. For years she worked the cash register until a spot opened in the deli. She realized other grocers were selling fresh cakes, so she started baking and selling her cakes at the grocery store. Word spread quickly and Dean’s cakes flew off the shelf - so she sold decades worth of grocery store stock, gathered some friends, and opened her own bakery at age 60. Thus, Dean’s Cake House was born.

Jacobs’ budding company started in a little building south of town where word about her delicious products quickly out-paced square footage. While most were after her chocolate cake, customer support served as a catalyst to expanded the menu to include caramel, coconut, lemon, and more.

She moved to a bigger building, expanded her product line to include cookies, pies, and more, and the people kept coming.

Now Jacobs ships hundreds of cakes a day to grocery stores throughout the southeast. Around the holidays demand is so high that it’s impossible for her staff of 18 to keep up.

It’s important to note you won’t find any assembly line machines or shortcuts here. Dean calls her staff “the girls,” and most are over age 60. They divide labor — one greases pans, one pours batter, one slips them into the ovens, and so forth — and they hustle.

“It’s the only thing we’ve got going for us. People know a real person makes every cake. You can taste it.”

She says she never expected any of this and still struggles to understand it. She has rarely left Covington County and admits, “I haven’t even seen all of the county yet.”

Ryan McPherson

Glidden Point Oyster Farms
Edgecomb, Maine

Photo: Derek Davis, Portland Press Herald

Photo: Derek Davis, Portland Press Herald

One of the most important aspects of rural America is while the people are largely comprised of similar traits — hard working, passionate, dedicated — the geography and agricultural and food opportunities are differ vastly across the country. For example, Glidden Point Oysters, located in picturesque Maine, is founded on the mission of providing, you guessed it, excellent oysters.

“Our farm was established in 1987 by the work of a dedicated marine biologist who believed the only way to grow an oyster was to grow a great one. It took many years of trial and error, but by obtaining some of the most ideal growing areas on the Damariscotta River it appears she discovered the simple formula: place + practice = a premium oyster.”

For thirty years Glidden Point Oysters have made their way to wholesalers, chefs, and individuals; locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally -- earning a reputation for producing some of the finest oysters on the market.

While all businesses aspire to grow exponentially, it’s apparent Glidden Point’s mission is largely to credit for this business’ success: It is our mission to provide you with the best experience, from placing your order to enjoying our product.

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Glidden Point Oysters.png

What’s special about Glidden Point Oysters?

From the behind-the-scenes glimpses through Instagram to farm tours (land and water) the Glidden Point team showcases a lifestyle that although many enjoy, not many are familiar.

The world of oyster farming and fishing is one that “you have to want to be in,” owner Ryan McPherson said. He has been drawn to that world since his early days, when his father would take him fishing, and he kept trying to find a way back to water. He gravitated to oyster farming because it was a unique product he could brand, unlike the lobster industry, which is dependent on volume.

McPherson, originally from Marshfield, Massachusetts, wasn’t new to aquaculture. He had fished out of Nantucket and other ports, raised mussels on Martha's Vineyard, and worked at oyster farms in Massachusetts. When he learned that founder Barb Scully was interested in slowing down, he seized the opportunity to make Glidden Point Oysters his own.

“The opportunity to do something up here was pretty special,” McPherson said.

McPherson has added a retail shop to the company’s offerings, and plans for a patio and dining space are in the works.

Joni Nash

Executive Director, Pawhuska Chamber of Commerce
Pawhuska, Oklahoma

Her Southern charm is one of the first things you’ll notice, but only seconds later you’ll learn Joni Nash’s rural roots run deep.

Born and raised on a farm in Georgia, Nash grew up showing horses and was involved in the Nation’s original youth leadership organization — 4-H, which some could rightly say set a strong foundation for her title as Miss Rodeo Georgia, which she proudly represented at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. 

After her reign, Nash spread her wings to Stillwater, Okla. using auctioneering school as an opportunity to help pay her tuition. Not one to take handouts, she made a deal with her dad: he would pay for auctioneering school giving Nash a year to pay back the loan. Within six months, the loan was paid in full and Nash was making her mark as a female auctioneer.

After earning degrees from Oklahoma State University and Southwest Christian University, Nash took on a series of roles focusing on recruitment, development, and volunteer management, and is a certified K-12 special ed teacher. Knowing she wanted a rural life, her career afforded the opportunity to do just that and still keep up with her auctioneering gigs. It also gave her a chance to entertain a few other hobbies: team roping and hunting (just ask her about the kudu wall mount now on display at her ranch).

As an International Roundup Clubs’ Cavalcade queen contest judge in 2013 and again 2014, Nash made necessary connections that led to her now position as Pawhuska Chamber of Commerce Executive Director. Since starting with the Chamber, Nash has witnessed the small town literally explode overnight with the opening of the Pioneer Woman Mercantile (and other subsequent businesses that followed). These days it’s not uncommon for national publications like People Magazine or the Associated Press to call for an interview - something that would have been unimaginable in years past.

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Joni Nash.png
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Nash makes her home at the Coy T. Ranch, affectionately named after her dad and four generations before him, outside Pawhuska. The Coy T is home to her bottle calf Ida Red, horse, Two Guns, dog, a small herd of commercial cattle, and Camp Noni — which she hosts once a year for her nieces and nephews. 

She also operates as an independent-contract auctioneer specializing in benefit and non-profit fundraisers, including work with the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, Easter Seals, the Mark Harmon Project, Tulsa Boys Home, the National Wild Turkey Federation, International Professional Rodeo Association, Miss Rodeo America, Inc., and the University of Oklahoma men’s and women’s athletics.

Her recent work as the Regional Coordinator for Marsy’s Law, a campaign to strengthen rights for crime victims, achieved a successful victory in Oklahoma resulting in a constitutional amendment.

What stands out about Joni?

While after only moments of meeting Nash, you’re confident in her ever-growing Rolodex and inability to meet a stranger, but what leaves the longest impression is her generous spirit and ability to lead with integrity and character that stands above the rest. It’s no wonder the locals refer to her as the “Queen of Pawhuska.”

Her life-giving presence shines through in everything she does.

Amie Sikes & Jolie Sikes

Junk Gypsies
Round Top, Texas

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Full of big dreams and unstoppable drive, sisters Amie and Jolie Sikes launched Junk Gypsy with $2,000 and an old pickup truck. After earning college degrees and attempting to find peace in corporate city jobs, both arrived at a point where they could no longer resist the restless pull to return to their rural Texas roots. Thus began their life as creatives and entrepreneurs, which both will tell you they were truly meant to be.

“We agreed we’d never seen a city looking so beautiful as it did in our rearview mirrors. We never could get used to the sight of skyscrapers on the horizon instead of towering pines. We missed the stars. Our cowgirl boots longed for the earth. Some indefinable something else was calling to our gypsy souls.”

Since then, the Junk Gypsies and their signature style — equal parts retro, romantic and classic country, with a healthy dose of sass and rhinestones — have become a Texas phenomenon, with famous fans including Miranda Lambert, Dierks Bentley, and Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong. Their unique brand and lifestyle eventually secured their own TV show, a self-titled book, and collaborations with Pottery Barn Teen and Lane Boots, to name a few.

“There were no stodgy business plans for this ride . . . just grassroots dreams and a whole lotta faith! We set out to find a great business, but instead found a great life.”

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With all their trips to Warrenton and Texas Antiques Week, it’s no surprise they fell in love with nearby Round Top. After more than a decade on the road selling their one-of-a-kind junk creations, the sisters, their parents, and their families have settled down in the tiny town of 90, where they opened an 8,000-square-foot flagship store and world headquarters in 2013. Next came the Wander Inn, an eight-bedroom getaway next to their store, and Amie’s 1900s farmhouse they found by the road and had moved onto her property. Of course all are complete with neon lighting, vintage signage, and Americana flair.

“It was already like a home away from home, but we really love it here. The land and the countryside and the hillside.” - Jolie Sikes

The new store, along with family life in a small town, has a theme that’s apparent through….FUN. A perfect example is the Junk-o-Rama Prom they host every year during Texas Antiques Week — where over-the-top prom dresses are always in, too much is just right, and you can never have enough bling. Open to everyone, it’s a glam party that has now reached legendary status.

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Why America loves the Junk Gypsy brand and lifestyle so much

A megaphone for life and adventure in rural America, Amie and Jolie have literally designed a life around small-town living.

Being a Junk Gypsy is living a life of traveling the backroads in search of junk along roadsides and in antique stores and flea markets - and then finding a way to give it new life. But no matter where the road takes them, they always come home to their rural Texas roots.

"We have our business, we have our family, and we're living in the country. Those are the things that are most important to us.” - Jolie Sikes

“Grit. It’s part of who we are. Who we were meant to be. How we were raised.”

Nevada Watt

Nevada Watt Brand
Frenchglen, Oregon

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She calls herself the “Western Eclectic Maker.” Her jewelry incorporates traditional Western design with cultural elements -- classic silver engravings like scrolls with geometric shapes like triangles, diamonds, and crosses. And she’s everything you would hope for in a Ruralist.

Nevada Watt is a maker and wife to rancher Levi. Together they live in rural Frenchglen, Ore. (pop. 12). There, Watt spends most of her time fabricating, engraving, and creating eclectic silver jewelry. And of course taking a break now and then to help her husband on the ranch. You will often find her documenting this “middle of nowhere” life on her Instagram.

Watt grew up in central California, learning the art of silversmithing from her father, Jeremiah Watt. She attended Montana State University and earned a degree in exercise science, but returned to silver after graduating.

Watt quickly developed her own style - one that has been known to receive pushback from traditionalists. And while she holds nothing against traditional designs, she says would be bored if she stuck to them. She thanks critics for their input and continues to infuse her work with her own style.

“You can move traditions forward. If you don’t, they die.”

She is also curator of the Fusion Show and Sale in Santa Ynez, Cali., a show for western craftsmen focusing on creativity within constraints.

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Why do we love Nevada?

Mature. Generous. Encouraging. All words her peers use to describe her.

Nevada carries herself with maturity in how she rises above the drama in the small world of the western industry where some say there is one too many "who is copying who" territory battles. Many have seen her designs and styles knocked off, but none can say they’ve heard her bad mouth another. She's generous in sharing her wealth of knowledge for those hungry to learn/grow in both the art of making and in the challenge of making it a successful business.

“Never be too busy to be helpful to those around you.”

She's the kind of woman making an impact in the world so no matter what corner of rural America you wander, someone says "Have you met her? You should! She's amazing!"

Brad Bellah

Throckmorton, Texas


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:


Sean Dietrich

Sean of the South
Santa Rosa Beach, Florida


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

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.


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.