On the Farm: Aaron Spence’s Dirt Road Collective feeds her creative side while allowing her to help her husband at home
Aaron Spence has created a home business that encapsulates four of her passions — farming, Saskatchewan, hockey and lake life.
Her Dirt Road Collective online apparel and accessories company features eye-catching artwork, symbols, statements and phrases covering those four themes.
She likes the simplicity of her work, like a T-shirt with the handwritten initials SK on top and CA beneath.
She finds that simple designs and messages have more impact, like how those four letters somehow convey the sense of pride she has about living in Saskatchewan.
“I don’t feel like it needs a whole bunch of details to get that across,” said Aaron.
She grew up on a grain farm near Outlook, Sask., and now lives on a mixed operation on her grandparent’s old farm with her husband, Jay, and their three children, age 12 to 18.
The name of her business came from the dirt road the runs beside their farmyard.
“I spend a lot of time out there walking with my dog and with the kids biking or riding the dirt bike,” she said.
Spence used to work in an economic development office until she had her son in 2008 and decided to stay at home.
Her husband is happy she made that choice because it’s great to have an extra helping hand around the farm.
“If she had a full-time job I’d be kind of stuck,” said Jay.
The couple run a purebred Red Angus cattle operation in addition to a grain farm that stretches from the home operation 25 kilometres west of Outlook to the land they rent from Jay’s father about 65 kilometres away in Hawarden, Sask.
Jay often needs help moving equipment, harvesting or taking care of the cattle.
“With her being here all the time it’s sure nice. Once we get calving here if I need a hand or help with something, I do have her around,” he said.
It is also nice having the extra income being generated by a business that Aaron is passionate about.
“She’s got a pretty good talent for it. She’s pretty creative,” said Jay.
Aaron wanted to start a sideline business to keep herself occupied. She tried photography and website design before launching the Dirt Road Collective six years ago.
T-shirts and hoodies featuring her designs sell for between $25 and $50. Some of the most popular items come from her farm and ranch line of clothing featuring sayings like — Plant, Spray, Harvest, Repeat and It’s a Great Day to Farm.
Her client base is scattered all over. She has sold product to former Saskatchewan residents living in cities like New York and Chicago.
She occasionally does custom orders, such as putting a farm logo on 25 hoodies for a farmer who wanted to give one to each family member at Christmas.
Business has been growing slowly but steadily. This Christmas was the busiest one yet, partially due to the COVID-19 pandemic forcing people to shop online.
Sales are made through her website, Facebook page and Instagram page.
She has been approached by a couple of retailers wanting to stock her merchandise but she is “not there yet.”
And there are no plans for opening her own retail outlet or farmers market booth. The online business is enough of an undertaking for now.
“That works best for us because we’re super busy. A store front really isn’t in the cards for us,” said Aaron.
She employs a variety of techniques for making the shirts and hoodies including a press, sublimation, transfers and screen printing. An extra bedroom has been converted into office space.
Her plans for the business include building her social media presence, developing a western-themed line of products and expanding more into accessories.
She recently partnered with a friend to create mugs and tumblers featuring her work.
“I’m always trying to come up with cute little farmer designs like my ‘Coffee Row Said So’ mugs and things like that, that have that little rural Saskatchewan touch,” said Aaron.
Most of her merchandise is geared toward women, such as her ‘Hockey Mom’ hoodies and crewnecks. Being a hockey mom herself she knows that women need something warm and cute for those long shivery days at the rink.
One of the great joys of her sideline venture is working with her talented daughters.
“My oldest daughter is so artistic. She started to hand draw some designs, which is really cool because that makes them so original,” said Aaron.
Her daughter’s latest creation is a collection of vibrant hand-drawn flowers superimposed on the outline of a cow.
Her younger daughter makes key chains featuring images like the skull of a Texas longhorn and a cow tag.
Both of her daughters also model the clothing for the photos displayed on Aaron’s social media platforms.
But they don’t do it out of the goodness of their hearts.
“They expect royalties of course,” said Aaron with a chuckle.