Posts tagged August 2018
Marji Guyler-Alaniz



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


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

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

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



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


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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.


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


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.


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.


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


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 & JaTanna Williams


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


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


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.


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.


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.


Danna LarsonAugust 2018
Scott Stebner


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.


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