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

  Resource Education and Agriculture Leadership
January 2016

MSU Extension Logo



Class II learns about Montana crop production in Great Falls

REAL Montana (Resource Education and Agricultural Leadership) Class II attended their third seminar in Great Falls January 14-16. The focus of the seminar was “Crop Production Economy & Issues.” Class members heard from experts on Montana’s role in domestic and global agricultural markets, rail transport, public policy, the Farm Bill, GMOs, and the H2A visa program. A speaker panel consisting of conventional and organic farmers briefed the class on current issues in crop production. Representatives from Senator Tester, Senator Daines and Congressman Zinke outlined legislative issues to prepare the class for their upcoming trip to Washington D.C. The class took part in a skill building training on fundraising, shared a meal at the Hillcrest Colony near Vaughn, and toured the Rainbow Dam hydroelectric facilities. The seminar included a networking banquet where class members interacted with local program sponsors and industry leaders.

Photo: Class II at the Rainbow Dam

Scenes from Seminar 3

Class II learning about energy production at the Rainbow Dam

Megan Hedges and panel discuss the H2A Visa Program

Courtney Cowgill describes her small organic farm

Bing Von Bergen teaches the class about current GMO issues


Class II completing a fundraising skill building exercise with Tyler Wiltgen

Farm policy and leadership discussion led by Lola Raska and Lochiel Edwards

Seminar 3 Insights

“Seminar 3 in Great Falls exceeded my expectations! I feel more educated on topics vital to Montana’s crop production economy such as rail transport, farm policy, labor issues and immigration and the food label more than half of Americans fear: GMOs. We also spent an afternoon touring the Hillcrest Hutterite Colony and the Rainbow Dam Hydro Power Plant. I was impressed by the ingenuity and self sufficiency of the colony and amazed to learn that the new power plant generates more energy more efficiently to over 45,000 homes. This seminar reaffirmed how proud I am to be a part of the REAL Montana program and to have the opportunity to learn from industry leaders as well as my classmates.
-Katie Cooper: Director and Ranch Hand, Cooper Hereford Ranch, Willow Creek

“This is one of the most 'hands-on' leadership programs that I have had the opportunity to participate in.   I am really looking forward to spending the next two years learning  from key leaders across our state, and building the relationships necessary to strengthen our respective industries."
-Paul Babb: Community Relations Manager, NorthWestern Energy, Butte

Class II Profiles
Tom Hougen: Owner, Hougen Ranch, Melstone

I applied for REAL Montana with the idea I would not only represent the livestock industry but all natural resource industries. Coalitions are needed to address government overeach and the effect committed activists are having on the way we do business.

The most impactful REAL Montana experience thus far has been my interactions with classmates.  Their dedication and commitment is outstanding.  Class II will make a difference in how we all survive in a sometimes hostile environment. 

Hobbies: What are hobbies?

Chaley Harney: Executive Director, Montana Beef Council, Billings

The REAL Montana program and my job go hand-in-hand for building a foundation as an educated spokesperson for Montana’s agriculture and natural resources. I believe there is more to learn every day and the REAL Montana program provides networking, hand-on experience  and skill-building for each class of experienced leaders to further develop and sculpt our personal leadership style.

The most impactful experience thus far was during our first seminar when we heard from members of the previous class about the accomplishments they have already achieved through their participation in REAL Montana. The prospect of what lies beyond is very exciting and with each passing seminar it has been fulfilling to watch each of us grow and take on new challenges. Each seminar is very focused and filled down to the minute with information. I intend to soak up as much as I can during the next year and a half to enhance my ability for thoughtful conversation and industry influence.

Hobbies: Helping my husband tend cattle on the ranch, trying new beef recipes, cake decorating, photography

Meet Class II

Class II 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 11 industry leaders from across the state who donate countless hours to ensure REAL Montana is a success. CLICK HERE to meet our 2016 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.





The REAL Montana class is gearing up for Seminar 4 in Washington D.C. March 1-5. While in our nation’s capital, Class II will meet with our Congressional delegation, federal agencies, industry representatives, lobbyists, and leaders, as well as visiting an embassy and sites of historic interest. It will be a meaningful trip!

- Janelle Booth
Director, REAL Montana

Seminar 4: Federal Government: Policy on a National Scale, March 1-5, 2016 in Washington D.C.

Seminar 5: Oil and Gas Development, June 9-11, 2016 in Sidney


REAL Montana
Janelle Booth, Program Director
Tara Becken, Program Coordinator

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

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