Parents and Family News: Published by the Parent and Family Association

  Resource Education and Agriculture Leadership
February 2018

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Class III learns about coal and culture in Colstrip and Crow Agency

Class III of REAL Montana just returned from the third seminar in their two-year educational program. The focus of the seminar, held January 18-20, was “Coal and Culture". While in Crow Agency the class learned about Crow and Northern Cheyenne history and traditions, area agriculture, tribal community issues, and working with other cultures. The group then traveled to Colstrip to discuss energy production, legislation, and community successes and challenges. Tours included the Westmoreland coal mine and Colstrip Steam Electric Station. Class members also took part in a networking banquet where they interacted with local program sponsors and industry leaders. The session wrapped up with a discussion about the upcoming Farm Bill and current legislative issues in preparation for the Washington D.C. seminar.

Photo: Class III at the Colstrip Steam Electric Plant

Scenes from Seminar 3

Area leaders explain tribal community issues at the Little Big Horn College

Class III learning they will travel to India in November for their international experience

Observing the mining process and reclamation at the Westmoreland coal mine

Joanne Schrupp (Colstrip Schools), Jim Atchison (SE MT Development Corp.), and John Williams (Colstrip Mayor) discuss Colstrip Community successes and challenges

Brian Thompson on a tour of the Steam Electric Station

Class members gaining a better understanding of power generation in Colstrip

Seminar 3 Insights

"Coal and Culture was a firsthand look at the challenges that face a culture, a community, and a state.  In Crow Agency we learned about REAL challenges that face our Native neighbors, and about companies that are putting forth REAL effort to understand their culture and to provide opportunities to remove barriers that extend the cycle of poverty .  In Colstrip we learned about a community that is taking on the world, leading by example to show that Montana’s  beauty and the use of her natural resources do not have to be mutually exclusive.  This seminar was extremely impactful and inspiring!”
-Brad Cook: Certified Public Accountant, Partner and Agricultural Practice Leader, Wipfli, LLP, Helena

“Our Coal Country Seminar helped clear up many of the misconceptions about Coal Country’s future. Getting our feet on the ground with this resilient community is the key to developing a powerful advocacy stance. The Crow cultural discussion for me was truly the highlight. Since much of their history is told through stories we miss much of it or make uninformed opinions. I now have a new appreciation for the Crow culture and a desire to better understand the cultures of the other Native Nations of our state."
-Tater Erickson: Retail Account Manager, DuPont Crop Protection, Hobson

Class III Profiles
Jeff Welborn: Diversified Small Business Owner and State Senator, Dillon
Montana is a diverse State, geographically, politically, and socially. REAL Montana helps bridge these divides through effective leadership training. I applied for this program based on its success, to network, share my own talents and information, and learn from its vast knowledge and talent pool.

The program has challenged each of us to step outside our comfort zones. It's been inspiring to witness the caliber of our presenters, on a myriad of topics, and also in hearing from good paying natural resource job creators and the positive impact that these revenue generators have on our entire state. I've been fascinated with the knowledge and passion that each these presenters have for their respective communities, industries, families, tribes, constituents, and collectively for the state that we all call home.

Hobbies: Snow skiing, Bobcat football, traveling with my family, helping further the success of the Shriner's Hospitals for Children, restoring historic log and timber structures, old tractors, vintage pickups, and seeing the US and Canada from the back of a motorcycle

Rose Malisani: Agriculture Extension Agent, MSU Extension, Cascade
REAL Montana is a one of a kind program that engages leaders to learn about the vast industries in Montana. I knew right away that I wanted to learn more about logging, coal, oil, gas, and mining. I also wanted to meet the people who work in Montana’s agricultural and natural resources industries who are making a positive impact.

The most impactful experience thus far has been the educational opportunities to learn about Montana’s industries and people. Getting to build relationships with class members, alumni, and sponsors of REAL Montana has been astonishing. It is refreshing to see so many people passionate about what they do.

Hobbies: Traveling and riding a good horse

REAL Montana Welcomes New Program Director

REAL Montana is pleased to announce Tara Becken as the new Program Director. Tara holds a Master's degree in Mass Communications and a Bachelor's in Agricultural Business from Montana State University- Bozeman. Tara has served as REAL Montana Program Coordinator since May of 2015 and is a graduate of REAL Montana Class I.

Alumni News

Joe Dooling (Class I) and Chaley Harney (Class II) were appointed by Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue to the Montana FSA State Committee.

Megan Hedges (Class II) was selected to serve on the American Farm Bureau National Issue Advisory Committee.

Katie Cooper (Class II) was appointed to the Cattlemen's Beef Board (CBB) by Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue as one of 3 Montana representatives. She joins Lynda Grande (Class III), also a Montana representative on the CBB.

Meet Class III

Class III of REAL represents a diverse cross-section of natural resource industries across Montana. Twenty participants were competitively selected based on leadership capabilities and willingness to serve in decision-making roles upon completing the program. For a complete list, CLICK HERE.

Our Advisory Board

The REAL Montana Advisory Board consists of 12 industry leaders from across the state who donate countless hours to ensure REAL Montana is a success. CLICK HERE to meet our Advisory Board.

REAL Montana Sponsors

REAL Montana is made possible through the generous support of a broad group of public and private entities. CLICK HERE for a complete list of program sponsors. For information on becoming a sponsor of REAL Montana, please contact the Program Director.





It is an exciting time for REAL Montana Class III! The group is preparing to visit Washington D.C. at the end of the month for the Federal Policy seminar and they just learned they will be traveling to India in November for the international trip! I stepped into my new role as Program Director January 1, and look forward to the opportunity to continue to work with this great group of leaders.

- Tara Becken
Director, REAL Montana

Seminar 4: Federal Policy, February 26- March 3, 2018 in Washington D.C.

Seminar 5: Oil & Gas Development, June 21-23, 2018 in Sidney


REAL Montana
Tara Becken, Program Director

MSU Extension
Culbertson Hall
PO Box 170535
Bozeman, MT 59717-0535

Tel: (406) 994-6480
Fax: (406) 994-1905