Leadership Series | Guest Blog Post | Weston Merrill

Post by Weston Merrill


I was asked to write a blog post about my leadership brand. What intimidated me most were the words “blog post”! This relates to my leadership brand because my brand is difficult to define. I am all about being the maker of your own destiny. Whether we believe it or not at the end of the day we have control over how successful we will be. This includes how we feel about ourselves and others.

My brand is not something that has one ingredient or that can even be defined in one word. It’s much bigger than a blog post. The only way I can describe it would be that it can’t be contained and that it’s contagious, watch out!!!!!!!! The word that comes closest to adequately describing what my brand is ” animo” which is a Spanish word that doesn’t have a direct English translation but means excitement and energy! It’s an ever changing and adapting attitude so that you are not stagnate or stuck on one way to do things or way of thinking.

Developing and living my leadership brand is a lifelong process. Being able to objectively look at people, things or situations so as not to be confined by outside stigmas or presumptions. I know my brand fits me and is all mine. My involvement in the leadership series is giving me an opportunity to grow and learn from others. It’s helping me to put into practice what I just talked about. Look at others and their brands objectively and not subjectively. I’m excited to learn from fellow members of the leadership series this year and far into the future! The opportunity to network with people who are like me and NOT like me is so rewarding. I’m excited to hit the world with my brand.

My goal for the leadership series is to get my brand burning hot enough that it leaves a lasting mark when I stick it on the cow hide!

The Leadership Series is made possible through the support of MSGA’s Research Education and Endowment Foundation. Want to learn more about our Leadership Series? Check out the website or email kori@mtbeef.org.

Leadership Series | Guest Blog Post | Casey Knudsen


Post by Casey Knudsen


Leadership has always been an important concept to me.  Growing up heavily involved in sports, I realized early on that without an efficient and empathetic leader, a team cannot perform to its full potential.  This understanding of group dynamics between a team and its leader has carried over with me from sports and other extracurricular activities into my post-secondary education and professional endeavors.  I strive on a daily basis to lead by example. I do not always meet my goal, but I believe that the ability to self-examine, understand where I am deficient, and try to improve in those areas is important in any leadership role.

I also believe that a leader cannot be above any task that a team is presented with, whether that task is time-consuming or uneventful.  A team is much more likely to trust in their leader and perform even the most menial job when they know that their leader is willing to do the same.  As I said before, many of these leadership skills I learned when involved in sports.  I do not believe that sports are the most important thing in a high-schooler’s life, but they are a very vital method of teaching young people how and how not to be an effective leader later in life.

In my experience, sports almost taught me how NOT to be a leader more than they taught me the correct way to lead.  I have had many great coaches in my athletic career, but it seems that the coaches that performed and treated their teams poorly had more of an impact on my leadership style than the good ones.  These poor coaches impressed on me the importance of being an empathetic leader and understanding the struggles of not only the above average team members, but the team members that need greater support as well.  Being a leader does not only mean utilizing your team as they are, but trying to improve your team and develop them into something greater.

Agriculture has also taught me a great deal about being a leader.  Work ethic has always been a heavily emphasized skill on the ranch, which translated into the professional world.  Working cattle has been a great teacher as well.  Being able to stay calm, cool and collected when working cattle is paramount, as the more upset you act, the wilder cattle tend to behave.  This is something every leader must understand, since being able to steel yourself in the face of adversity not only allows you to think straight yourself, but it keeps your team from breaking down.

Being involved in the Leadership Series has not only taught me valuable skills, it has proved to me that my leadership style can be effective.  This series has also shown me that no matter how good you think you might be at whatever you are doing, there is always room for improvement.


The Leadership Series is made possible through the support of MSGA’s Research Education and Endowment Foundation. Want to learn more about our Leadership Series? Check out the website or email kori@mtbeef.org.

Leadership Series | Guest Blog Post | Trina Bradley


Post by Trina Bradley


Last fall I applied and was accepted into the inaugural Montana Stockgrowers Leadership Series, which is a year-long “class” that will help mentor and develop fourteen young ag leaders from across the state of Montana.

As you all know, I am a born and bred cattle woman. I eat, sleep and breathe cows, and I want to make sure that my daughter has every opportunity to carry on this lifestyle and keep this ranch in the family for years to come. Therefore, I have been working on stepping up and getting involved in ag advocacy for the past few years. I have recently become a Director for the Marias River Livestock Association, I am a 4-H Cloverbud leader, and I have been working on establishing a CattleWomen association in my area.

The Leadership Series is a perfect opportunity for me to focus my energy and hone my skills as a leader, as well as being the perfect place to network with fellow lovers of ag from all over Montana.

We are now four months into the program, and I have come to realize several things about what true leadership is to me. I have also had to some serious soul searching, and admit to myself some things that I really didn’t want to admit to.

I could go on and on about the things that I am not, and the things I suck at as a leader. HOWEVER, our insanely wonderful and slightly crazy leadership coach has impressed on us NUMEROUS times that we do not need to focus on what we aren’t – we need to focus on what we are.

So here are some things that I know to be true about my leadership skills:

  1. I am bossy. I know what needs to be done, and I know who needs to do it. I have no problem giving orders, and I expect things to be done in a timely manner, and done right.
  2. I work hard. When there’s a job to be done, I don’t quit when I’m tired, I quit when I’m done. A good leader doesn’t just give orders; a good leader gets her hands dirty.
  3. I’m stubborn. I’m not going to take no for an answer, and when I get a great idea, I get after it, no matter the obstacle.
  4. I love to learn. I love learning about everything, and that comes in handy when I take on a project I’m not 100% familiar with, or when a new issue comes up.
  5. I’m a good listener. I always have an ear to lend for a friend, and I am learning to listen to the “other side” – the people that oppose ag, or certain ag practices, etc. In order to be a great advocate for our ag community, I need to be able to listen to the concerns of our consumers and look at things from their point of view.

This Series has been eye opening to me in many ways, and I have made a plethora of new friends along the way. I cannot wait to see what Sarah and Ryan (our coaches) have in store for us in the coming months.

I am hoping that this program will continue well into the future, and I encourage every young rancher in Montana to apply next year. You won’t regret it for a second.

The Leadership Series is made possible through the support of MSGA’s Research Education and Endowment Foundation. Want to learn more about our Leadership Series? Check out the website or email kori@mtbeef.org.

Leadership Series | Guest Blog Post | Chisholm Christensen

My personal leadership story and why I’m stepping up to live larger by being a part of this program

Post by Chisholm Christensen


Writing is one of the more difficult and important tasks a person can undertake; requiring the author to think critically and explain effectively their topic of choice. Through writing, more so than speaking, we are able to fine-tune, rework and continually reanalyze our position free from external judgement or input until we ourselves are satisfied with the presentation and tone of our offering. This very personal task provides the writer an opportunity for personal growth while at the same time cementing his or her ideas and thoughts about the theme to be drawn upon when future circumstances dictate. We have all heard again and again how important effective communication is in any type of relationship and I think this is an area I personally excel in and a good place to start telling you my individual leadership story.

My passion for an array of subjects led me at a very young age to have an impact on my surroundings. I have a clear picture of how I think things I am passionate about should be and I learned that if I didn’t have a voice or speak up many times those things took a course leading to an outcome altogether different and many times less exemplary than the one I was wishing for. I learned that wishing doesn’t get it done. Getting mad or excessively frustrated or disrespectful didn’t have a positive effect either. I had to learn not only how to make myself heard but also how to exert an influence on other individuals involved.

Most of this learning took place at the middle and high school level as I became more confident in myself and more zealous about circumstances affecting me or having an effect on things I cared about. Being low on the executive ladder posed a problem as well. The opinion of a student, no matter how well stated, carries far less weight than that of a teacher, staff, or any adult. A sad truth I had to deal with but one that taught me the importance of team and tone. When and how you say something can be just as important as what you are saying. I was at a disadvantage at school again because it is not a democracy. In the end the teacher or adult makes the choice. I may have had a voice but I did not have a vote and that taught me how to influence people and plead my case. It has made me, in my mind, an effective communicator and flows directly into how I lead.

I put my hat in the ring to be a part of this leadership series because my passion has not waned and I am passionate about agriculture. And just as I wished to exert an influence on themes deemed significant in my past I continue to desire exemplary results in areas I am passionate about now. This leadership series is providing me with the tools to sharpen my leadership skills and a platform from which my voice can be heard.

The Leadership Series is made possible through the support of MSGA’s Research Education and Endowment Foundation. Want to learn more about our Leadership Series? Check out the website or email kori@mtbeef.org.

Leadership Series | Guest Blog Post | Heather Fryer

Post by Heather Fryer


This year, I was selected to participate in the Inaugural Stockgrowers Leadership Series, a 12 month program hosted by the Montana Stockgrowers Association, designed to help participants succeed in their careers. What I have gathered from the class in the first four months has been more than I could have imagined.

The networking has exceeded my expectations. My classmates are hilarious, friendly people, who support each other, and we’ve all made friends in this leadership series.  We’ve learned about various operations and perspectives, shared ideas and had great discussions.  We don’t have to agree but we have to listen, be respectful and practice empathy.

We’ve met and listened to guest speakers who are knowledgeable in their subject areas. The Montana Stockgrowers work with many state agencies and boards, legislatures, leaders and other agriculture affiliates and agribusinesses. It’s beneficial to know we can call our organization and other associations with questions and it’s important to be able to work together to ensure the future of Montana ranching.

Montana agriculture has a very bright future ahead and these individuals are stepping up to leadership roles in their communities. We have some common goals.  We want to continue to our way of life, improve our operations, and help our agriculture community.  Our voices are incredibly important to agriculture, to our communities, to our interests and to our country.

I applied to the class because it sounded like a terrific opportunity and I wanted to learn how to better help agriculture through advocacy and policy. I believe this class is most beneficial for individuals who want to be involved in their communities but aren’t quite sure where to begin.  For producers and business owners, who have been working on their operation for a while and are ready to take it to the next level.  For individuals, who want to have input in the future of Montana ranching.  This series has improved our listening skills, showed us our individual strengths and given us the tools to spread our positive message of what we do for a living, why it’s important and how much we love our work!


The Leadership Series is made possible through the support of MSGA’s Research Education and Endowment Foundation. Want to learn more about our Leadership Series? Check out the website or email kori@mtbeef.org.

REEF Announces Selections for Young Cattlemen’s Conference

MSGA’s Research & Education Endowment Foundation Announces Selections for Young Cattlemen’s Conference

Helena, MT – Montana Stockgrowers Association’s Research & Education Endowment Foundation (REEF) has selected two delegates to represent MSGA at the Young Cattlemen’s Conference this year. Andy Kellom of Hobson, MT and Ariel Overstreet-Adkins of Helena, MT will represent MSGA at this year’s conference. The Young Cattlemen’s Conference, held June 1 – June 9, is an opportunity for cattlemen and cattlewomen between the ages of 25 and 50 to visit segments of the beef industry in other parts of our nation with young cattlemen from other states. Facilitated by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), participants will travel with national attendees to Denver, Chicago and Washington D.C.

The primary objective is to develop leadership qualities in young cattlemen and expose them to all aspects of the beef industry. The tour helps these young leaders understand all areas of our industry ranging from industry structure to issues management, from production research to marketing. It is through the support of REEF and the Young Stockgrowers that MSGA is able to send two people to this conference.


Andy Kellom is the cattle manager for Bos Terra LP. He manages the day to day cattle operations for a 7,000 head stocker operation and a 15,000 head feedlot. In addition to his responsibilities at Bos Terra, he also runs a personal herd of 500. He is the Vice President of the Judith Basin Stockgrowers and Chairman of the Cattle Feeders Subcommittee for MSGA. Andy was instrumental in the startup of Verified Beef and development of the USDA Process Verified Program and database to provide Age and Source, NHTC, Never Ever 3, and Grass Fed Verification to cow-calf producers. He believes the knowledge and experience he gains on the YCC trip will be invaluable to him as an individual MSGA member, he intends to continue to “be at the table” to contribute to the process of policy development.


Ariel Overstreet-Adkins was the Director of Communications for MSGA until she left to attend law school with the goal of becoming a more effective advocate for rural Montana and agriculture. This May she will graduate from the University of Montana School of Law with her juris doctor degree. After graduation she will spend a year clerking for a U.S. District Court judge in Montana. In the fall of 2017 she will begin work as an associate at the Moulton Bellingham law firm in Billings where her focus will be on natural resource and agricultural law, particularly water and property law. Ariel is confident that the YCC trip will give her further education and insight to be a great advocate for Montana’s family ranchers whether in the courtroom, the Legislature, or in the court of public opinion.

MSGA would like to thank all those that applied and congratulate Andy and Ariel on their selection!


The Montana Stockgrowers Association, a non-profit organization representing nearly 2,500 members, strives to serve, protect and advance the economic, political, environmental and cultural interests of cattle producers, the largest sector of Montana’s number one industry – agriculture.

Meet the Leadership Series – Heather Fryer

Heather Fryer



Colorado Springs, Colorado


I was raised in an Air Force family, with my officer father piloting a variety of planes and commanding multiple units.   During my childhood, I lived and traveled all over the nation, sometimes living in agriculture communities, at other times living in the suburbs.  My agricultural experience included raising and showing livestock in 4H and ranch-hand labor, helping to build fences in the mountains of Idaho.  The rural lifestyle and my enjoyment of raising animals set the course of my life, leading to university study in agricultural disciplines.  In 2002, I graduated from Colorado State University with two Bachelor of Science degrees, in Agricultural Business and Animal Science.  In 2004, I received my Master’s of Science in Agricultural Economics, married Jim Fryer and began working in Billings, MT.  Shortly thereafter and for the ensuing ten years, Jim and I have embraced career progression opportunities by moving to several locations in the US, Europe and Asia.  My family feels very fortunate to have returned to Jim’s native Montana by settling in Central Montana almost four years ago.  Jim works at Bos Terra, where the operation uses local grains to produce national beef.  Our three children are thoroughly immersed in Montana country life.


Office manager for home business; occasional cowpuncher; school board member; proposal editor; aspiring photographer

What sparked your interest in agriculture?

My family has always enjoyed the great outdoors; hunting, camping, fishing and riding horses.  When we lived on the east coast, we would visit the Pennsylvania farm where my father was raised.  I was involved in showing livestock in 4H and fell in love with raising and caring for the animals.

 What makes a great leader?

Great leaders possess many traits.  They have a clear set of principles guiding their lives and actions, a strong code of ethics, and the courage to stick to their principles and ethics as they strive to accomplish the goal.

They enjoy working with others to solve problems and reach solutions.  They communicate early, often and clearly.  Many issues are difficult and they take perseverance and courage to discuss.  Great leaders aren’t afraid to tackle tough issues.

Often times we need to stop and ask questions, listen, and hear what others are saying.  The more you learn about other perspectives, the more you’ll discover how much (or how little) you know about your own.  These are sometimes difficult topics for everyone. If you get defensive and attack, you’re not contributing to productive dialogue.  No one accomplishes much alone, and no one can know everything about everything.

If you could learn to do anything, what would it be?

Rope a calf and drag it into the branding fire successfully.

Where do you hope to be in five years?

I hope to be in rural Montana, working in agriculture research partially, publishing agriculture articles and photographs, riding as much as possible and raising my family.  Recently, I was visiting with an Emergency Room doctor (but that’s another story) whose husband is a native Montanan, she said, “You can take the man out of Montana once, but if he returns, he’ll never leave again.”  My kids and I hope she’s right and we think she is.

What do you hope to gain from the leadership series?

I hope to positively contribute to the agriculture industry as we continue to feed an ever growing world population.  As the world continues to grow, agriculture businesses, leaders and policy makers can hopefully help expand our markets.  Stockgrowers and other producers can continue to spread a positive message that we care for our animals, crops, land and we want to ensure food safety.  Our voices are incredibly important to agriculture, to our communities, to our interests and to our country.  I want to learn how to better help our industry through advocacy and policy.

Heather Fryer 2IMG_1863P1100904

MSU Collegiate Stockgrower Honored with Two Awards

Kamron Ratzburg, former President of the MSU Collegiate Stockgrowers, has been awarded with two prestigious awards this week. He received both the 2016 Award of Excellence for demonstrating campus leadership and his community service work, as well as the 2016 Torlief Aasheim Community Involvement Awards, the university’s top award for student service.

The “Torley” Award recognizes senior students who, in addition to excelling academically, volunteer on campus and in the community. The award was named for the late MSU alumnus Torlief “Torley” Aasheim, former director of the Montana Cooperative Extension Service and a member of the class of 1937.

The Award of Excellence honored students were nominated by faculty in their college or department. Qualified seniors must have at least a 3.5 grade point average on a 4.0 scale, as well as demonstrated campus leadership and community service.

The award-winning students each selected a mentor who was honored with them at the event.

Kamron Ratzburg from Galata is majoring in animal science. While at MSU, Kamron has served as president of the Collegiate Stockgrowers, public relations chair for the Ag Student Council and was a member of the pre-vet club. He is also a member of Collegiate Young Farmers and Ranchers, Alpha Gamma Rho Fraternity and Alpha Zeta, an honorary, professional society for students in agriculture and natural resources fields. His community service includes volunteering at a spay/neuter clinic, participating in Trick or Treat So Kids Can Eat, supporting his fraternity’s philanthropy at the Alpha Gamma Rho Testicle Festival and helping out at the FFA State Convention. In his spare time, he works on the family ranch.

We are lucky to have such amazing young members in our Collegiate Stockgrowers. We look forward to seeing where the future leads Kamron!

2016 Cattle Industry Convention Update with Young Stockgrowers Chair, Lacey Ehlke

Young Stockgrowers Chair, Lacey Ehlke, gives us an update on San Diego and the 2016 Cattle Industry Convention & NCBA Trade Show


Leadership Series Kicks Off


leadership series group photo

Group Photo: Front Row (L to R) – Brenda Ochs, Shaelyn Meyer, Heather Fryer, Tony Johnson, Julia Dafoe, Katelyn Dynneson, Trina Bradley, Lacey Sutherlin, Sarah Bohnenkamp. Back Row (L to R) – Weston Merrill, Bo Bevis, Chisholm Christensen, Casey Knudsen, Justin Iverson. Not pictured: Cole Cook. Photo courtesy of Ryan Goodman

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.

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.

Originally posted on Agriculture Proud http://agricultureproud.com/2016/01/26/montana-ranchers-building-the-next-generation-of-leaders/