River Hill Ranch transports visitors into a rural, country lifestyle despite its location right off I-75 in Richmond, Kentucky.
Alvina Maynard, the ranch’s owner, said that many people who come to visit describe it as “magical.”
Maynard grew up in the countryside in Jamul, California, and said it was important for her children to be raised around farm life.
“Having that firsthand connection to nature I think really cultivates that spirit of stewardship in people — I really think it's the best way to grow good humans,” she said.
Maynard said the land her ranch is on is still developing and considers herself a “steward to the land.”
“I'm really passionate about preserving it [the land], making sure the wildlife that exists here has a place to continue to thrive and doing it in a way that is being productive as an agricultural business but also a home to the many creatures who were here before us,” she said.
When she moved to Kentucky, Maynard took an interest in alpacas and now raises them on her ranch.
Maynard has developed River Hill into a business by selling slow-fashion materials, particularly ones made from alpaca wool, in her on-site shop as well as on her website.
She described slow fashion as entering into a different kind of relationship with your clothing, as slow fashion uses environmentally friendly materials that are made to last.
“We create items that are supposed to be heirloom worthy,” Maynard said.
The process of gathering wool is extensive, as it takes a year for the alpacas to grow wool, and factors like their mental and physical health affect the quality of their wool.
“This is why alpacas got the name of having luxury wool,” she said.
Maynard said that there are many materials and styles that can be created from alpaca wool. River Hill Ranch's slow fashion products include scarves, socks, sweaters, purses and more.
Although the ranch predominately raises alpacas, they also have a llama, sheep, goat, horses, ducks, chickens and guard dog on the farm.
Maynard said that she felt like an outsider at the beginning of her journey on the ranch.
“I think for me, it is finding folks in the community that welcomed me with open arms and have them be the ones to create an opening for me in that space,” she said.
Maynard said she has female friends in this field, including farmers and ranchers around the state, even the country.
Although she may not get to see them in-person often, Maynard said she knows that there's a level of understanding of each other when times are difficult.
“Being a woman in agriculture, I do think there is a cool level of sisterhood because there's not a lot of us,” she said.
Anyone can visit and support River Hill Ranch, as they provide field trips, summer camps and morning yoga, according to its website.
Gloria Lane is the lead instructor of the Ranch Kids Club. She got involved with River Hill Ranch last summer working as a camp counselor.
“I was new to the area and loved working with animals and children and stumbled upon River Hill Ranch. I found myself wanting to come back for the enrichment program,” she said.
The Kids Club has been a hit for seven years as the kids get to interact with livestock and experience what life is like on a farm.
Lane said the sense of community and adventure at River Hill Ranch is unmatched.
“I love my work environment, my coworkers and the kids I work with. River Hill Ranch is basically everything I am passionate about bundled into an amazing opportunity,” Lane said.
She said the program makes an impact on the community by providing awareness of sustainability and how to cohabitate with the natural world.
“We teach how to be responsible companions of nature and how everything works together to sustain life in the great outdoors. We explore, get dirty, run around, and play with our furry barn friends on a daily basis,” Lane said.
Maynard said that owning River Hill Ranch is nothing short of a dream come true.
“I kind of pinch myself that I'm able to not only live here myself but be able to touch so many people's lives by them coming to experience this place,” she said.