Russell and Julie McMillian both grew up in Gulf County and together have established a thriving business based on their love of horses. They now own a small farm in Dalkeith, just south of Wewahitchka, and their business Rockin’ M Ranch, consists of horseback riding lessons for beginners and beach rides for tourists and locals alike along the beautiful beaches of Cape San Blas.
How did this all begin? Russell and Julie both grew up as Gulf County 4-H members of the Big River Riders 4-H Club. They both participated in a variety of 4-H programs; including Horse Camp, Camp Timpoochee, Congress (now known as 4-H University), District Events, North Florida Fair Ag Judging, Area A and State 4-H Horse Shows, etc. They both learned the values of 4-H through learning how to raise and compete with their animals, agricultural commodities, leadership skills, public speaking, community service, good decision making skills, and much more…
As adults, they both went in separate directions, but still maintained their love of horses and the farm life. Russell began his career in flooring and tile work, while Julie received her education degree and taught Kindergarten at Wewahitchka Elementary School. After reconnecting as adults, they married on September 25, 2010 and turned their passion for horses into a full-time love by creating their own business, Rockin’ M Ranch. Russell still does flooring, tile work on the side, and helps his grandparents with their hay business. Julie decided to leave the teaching field, and she manages their business full time. She began giving beach rides on the Cape at the age of 14 and still loves it as much today.
Russell began his time with 4-H at the age of 12 and Julie was 8 years old. As members of the Big River Riders 4-H Club, they adored their 4-H leaders, Mr. Jesse Eubanks and Ms. Jean McMillian (Russell’s grandmother), and the Gulf County Extension Director, Roy L. Carter (now retired), whose passion for horses was contagious. Julie explained that she was a very shy child and that participating in public speaking for District Events really helped her come out of her shell. They both loved learning the values of the four H’s: Head, Heart, Hands, and Health. They feel 4-H has helped them develop into productive adults with good decision-making skills and in-stilled in them the importance of giving back to their community. They have served as 4-H volunteers for the Big River Rider’s 4-H Club since Russell’s daughters joined 4-H years ago; Brooke (17) and Hayleigh (15) also ride horses and have competed in a variety of Gulf County 4-H programs throughout the years. Russell and Julie have also taught a variety of horse riding classes at multiple Gulf County 4-H day camps.
As 4-H and community leaders, their most important goal is to give back to the community that gave to them as 4-Hers growing up here. They really love introducing new riders to the love of horses and 4-H. On any day, Russell and Julie can be found throughout the county at various events supporting 4-H members and any youth for that matter.
When asked what advice she has for someone thinking about becoming a 4-H volunteer she said, “Do not have regrets…just do it. Do not be scared off by the fingerprinting and application process. It is quick and easy, and maintains the safety for you and the children. Get started! 4-H is a great opportunity for youth and adults.”
“As a 4-H extension agent, you can only hope to find 4-H volunteers as dedicated as Russell and Julie McMillian. Their passion and love of 4-H is infectious and draws in youth looking for a place to belong.” -Melanie Taylor, Gulf County 4-H Agent
For more information about Rockin’ M Ranch, please go to http://www.therockinmranch.com/. For more information about how to become involved in 4-H, either as a youth member or adult volunteer, visit florida4h.org or contact your local UF IFAS County Extension Office. 4-H offers a variety of roles for volunteers to share their passions, skills and interests.