Montana Ranchers Building the Next Generation of Leaders

The following is a recap of the first meeting for a Leadership Series I’m coordinating with the Montana Stockgrowers Association in 2016. I’m very excited about the opportunity to put together a program to help the next generation in our ranching communities become stronger leaders for our industry! This is a great opportunity I’m thankful to organize with the support of so many Montana ranchers. Stay tuned all year as I recap our meetings and progress each month.


leadership series group photo

Montana is home to a growing group of young professionals in the farming and ranching communities. These aspiring Millennials and younger Generation Xers are passionate about the lifestyle and impact they can have on the industry. To succeed in their careers on multi-generation ranches or by providing industry services, they’ll need tools in leadership, networking and business management.

During 2016, fourteen young ranchers are taking on this challenge through the Stockgrowers Leadership Series – a 12-month program hosted by the Montana Stockgrowers Association to help our future leaders succeed through their endeavors. The Leadership Series consists of workshops each month that will provide participants an opportunity to improve their skills in leadership, policy, business management, networking, communication and understanding of issues important to beef consumers.

Speaking with the Northern Ag Network, class member Heather Fryer of Hobson described the Leadership Series as a well-organized program and opportunity to work with a diverse group of her peers. “Everyone is busy, but we are the voice of Montana ranching and it is important to be involved as the industry evolves. The Leadership Series is a perfect opportunity to learn how to do that.”

On January 20-21, the Leadership Series met in Helena, Montana for a two-day workshop to kick off the program. 2016 participants come from all corners of the state and areas of the ranching communities. The class heard from leadership of Montana Stockgrowers, Department of Agriculture, Department of Natural Resources, Fish, Wildlife & Parks, and Department of Livestock. Representatives each offered an overview of their organization’s structure, role working with Montana ranchers and shared advice from their experience on becoming influential leaders in the industry.

Leadership coach, Sarah Bohnenkamp, worked with the class in a five hour workshop, helping identify their strengths and roles in leading others, whether at home on the ranch or as organization members. The class worked through a number of activities to identify their personal leadership brand, how to leverage those strengths, and learn more about potential to have a leadership legacy. Each month this year, the class will continue building on leadership strengths through webinars and at-home assignments with Bohnenkamp.

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While in Helena, the Leadership Series also toured the Montana state capitol, walking through the legislative process and viewing important committee rooms, as well as chambers of the Senate and House of Representatives, where they may one day participate in the legislative process by attending committee meetings or testifying on important bills that influence the ranching industry.

During the Capitol tour, the class visited the Governor’s office and met with Tim Baker, Policy Advisor for Natural Resources. Baker offered insight into all the areas of policy involved with his role in the Governor’s office. He also shared advice with the group on being aware of these important issues and their path to being strong leaders in the industry.

The next meeting for the Leadership Series will take place in March in Helena as the class focuses on the policymaking process, learning how effective policy can be used to address issues faced by ranchers across the state. The class will also learn more about operating a Board of Directors meeting and hear from speakers on industry topics.

2016 is the inaugural year for the Stockgrowers Leadership Series, which is aimed at helping Montana’s next generation (ages 25-45) become stronger leaders of the ranching community. The Leadership Series is organized by Ryan Goodman of Helena with the help of Lacey Ehlke, Young Stockgrowers Chair from Townsend, and Tyrel Obrecht, Young Stockgrowers Vice-Chair from Lewistown.

This year’s participants include Bo Bevis of Winnett, Trina Bradley of Valier, Chisholm Christensen of Hinsdale, Cole Cook of Miles City, Julia Dafoe of Havre, Katelyn Dynneson of Sidney, Heather Fryer of Hobson, Justin Iverson of Potomac, Tony Johnson of Dillon, Casey Knudsen of Malta, Weston Merrill of Buffalo, Shaelyn Meyer of Conrad, Brenda Ochs of Great Falls, and Lacey Sutherlin of Stevensville.

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7 Comments

  1. This looks like a really great program. I have an interest in programs like this personally as I’ve participated in something similar in the past, and am helping some with forming a new women-specific leadership training program with Montana Farmers Union. The more leadership training we have for people in Ag, the better. I think particularly working on forming policy is something that goes un-touched in some other leadership training groups, so kudos for addressing that. I look forward to reading more about your program’s meetings and successes. I’d also be interested in hearing about the logistics of your program- what all you’re covering, what you decided to leave out, as well as what did and didn’t work after it was all said and done. Good stuff!

    1. Thanks Lanie. Stay tuned. Information went out to Stockgrowers members in emails and newsletters all last Fall. Be sure to read those publications and emails and you’ll have ample opportunity to learn about their programs and opportunities.

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