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

Stockgrowers Attend Ranch Leadership Workshop at MidYear

Lacey EhlkeBy Lacey Ehlke, Townsend, Young Stockgrowers Vice-Chair

MSGA’s 2015 MidYear Meeting was a very well planned and executed event. We are all extremely lucky to have such a wonderful staff that is committed to organizing informational, interesting and fun events all year round. If you were not able to attend this year, I highly recommend attending next summer in Great Falls!

At this year’s MidYear, our opening workshop was put on by leadership coach, Sarah Bohnenkamp. I really enjoyed her workshop, as it was applicable to people of all ages. She had a different approach than I have seen in past leadership trainings I have attended. She really focused on self-confidence.

Sarah had us do activities in the group that involved talking about ourselves and our accomplishments, which is not always easy for some people, but is completely necessary to become a good leader. If you do not have confidence in yourself, how can you expect others to have confidence in you?

She also focused on listening skills, which is also a very important in leadership. With more hands-on activities, Sarah taught us the best way to listen to someone so that you understand them, and they know they have been understood. This sounds very simple, but is a crucial part of communication.

Sarah was a great resource and I learned a lot from her. Learning valuable leadership skills is critical today, especially when working with family. I am on the family ranch and work with my parents and sister on a daily basis and communication is key to everything. Realizing the things that you are good at, and working on the things you are not helps everyone to be more efficient, productive and happy to be at home.

We have some exciting plans in the works for the young leaders in our ranching communities. So stay tuned later this summer as we roll out new programs to help build our Association and ranching industry here in Montana.

Affiliate Mentorship Program Brings Ranchers to Helena for Leadership Workshop

AMPMontana Stockgrowers Association is in its second year of making a renewed effort to connect with Local Affiliate groups from across the state. The Affiliate Mentorship Program (AMP), which is designated as a three-year program, has been designed to connect the existing dots of communication between the Local Affiliates and MSGA. It encourages individual producers across the state to become involved in the outcome of their own destiny within the BEEF industry through their local affiliate and on to MSGA.

Our AMP program annual meeting took place this February with a two-day workshop held in Helena. 60 leaders, representing 15 Local Affiliate Associations from across the state were invited to learn more about what Montana Stockgrowers is doing for members on a state and national level. Attendees were also invited to provide feedback on improvements in communication and opportunities Local Affiliates would like to see from MSGA.

The leadership seminar is designed to empower individuals to engage by sharing their thoughts, ideas and concerns in a constructive manner to a constructive audience that can respond in a beneficial way and to become more familiar with how MSGA develops policy and strategies to continue to be an effective leader in the industry.

During the meeting, attendees had the opportunity to meet with the MSGA Board of Directors, hear from Executive Vice President, Errol Rice, gave an overview of MSGA’s structure and how information flows between state and local levels. Director of Natural Resources, Jay Bodner, informed the group on how MSGA handles policy issues during the legislative session and how MSGA works to give Montana ranchers representation on important policy and regulation changes. Manager of Communications, Ryan Goodman, introduced the group to the many ways MSGA is working to build communication channels within membership and to elevate the story of Montana ranchers.

Andy Kellom Montana Rancher EducationAttendees also had the opportunity to hear from Renea Heinrich with MorganMeyers. Renea provided this year’s AMP participants with an educational platform on “Becoming Ambassadors for Agriculture: Changing the Conversation”. Participants learned how to become better ambassadors for agriculture by discovering how to tell their stories in ways that are meaningful to their audiences. The workshop continued to build on last year’s Thought Leadership session, beginning with a refresher on media training skills, and then moved into a discussion around what consumers want to know about animal agriculture and how to deliver that information in ways that will resonate. Attendees learned that transparency is vital in today’s world as is communicating through shared values.

The outcome of the AMP program is to make a more consistent connection between MSGA and the local affiliates. We want to convey the message of who we are and how we are tied together from the local to state levels and then to a national level through existing networking. AMP conveys the message that individuals shape conversations. Those who show up, indeed run the world, however, “It is shaped by those who speak up.”

The AMP program would not be possible without the support of generous sponsors. Special appreciation goes to Merck Animal Health, Montana Livestock Ag Credit Inc., along with the help of several additional private sponsors that wished to remain anonymous.

Young Stockgrowers Host Calling on the Capitol – Legislative Conference

Lacey EhlkeBy Lacey Ehlke, Townsend, Young Stockgrowers Vice Chair

This year’s Calling on the Capitol Legislative Conference, hosted by the Young Stockgrowers, was a very informative and productive two days in Montana’s capitol city. We 20 attendees from all over the state become involved in the key issues affecting Montana ranchers.

The event started with a great overview of the issues focused on in the 2015 Legislative Session, presented by MSGA’s Jay Bodner. We then formed a round table discussion to talk about these issues, the major ones being the Board of Livestock Budget, Sage Grouse population, and the CSKT Water Compact. In that discussion, we were able to talk to all participants and find out how these issues directly affected them, as well as getting some questions answered for those affected. The social hour and dinner later that evening allowed us to get to know the fellow attendees, as well as continue some very meaningful discussion.

Calling on the Capitol 2015 Legislative Conference YSGThe next morning, we were fortunate enough to have breakfast with over 15 of our local legislators from both the Montana House of Representatives and Senate. During this breakfast, it was clear the legislators wanted to hear our input on the issues affecting ranchers in the state, which was both encouraging and rewarding. Following breakfast, we had a presentation from both the DNRC and Fish, Wildlife & Parks, and were able to ask questions of the presenters. Errol Rice then gave us a legislative training to prepare everyone for the visit to the Capitol that afternoon.

To wrap up, we all headed to the Capitol to see the legislature in action. The timing worked out perfectly, as we witnessed a joint session of the House and Senate, who were then addressed by Montana’s Congressman Ryan Zinke.

A comprehensive tour of the Capitol building itself followed and we completed the day by listening in to the Senate Natural Resources Committee meeting that afternoon.

As the newly elected Vice Chair of the Young Stockgrowers, I felt extremely lucky to be able to attend such a wonderful event. I am trying to become more involved in the organization, and this was a perfect way to do so. I recommend it to all Young Stockgrowers, not only for all the useful knowledge you walk away with, but for the lifelong friends you will make over the course of two days. These issues the MSGA staff work so hard on affect each one of us as ranchers, and it is crucial that we keep ourselves informed.

National Effort Places Renewed Focus on Young Beef Leaders

SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS – A new program from the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association is placing renewed focus on this country’s young beef producers. The NCBA Young Beef Leader (YBL) program, which involves state affiliates from across the country, will give young people 21-35 years old opportunities for education and increased involvement in local, regional and national industry efforts.

The initiative was announced following an NCBA YBL Roundtable Feb. 5 during the 2015 Cattle Industry Convention in San Antonio, Texas. Included in the roundtable, sponsored by Caterpillar and attended by representatives from 36 state and breed affiliates, was a state sharing forum and discussion of what the new program would include and how it would be conducted. In addition, representatives from seven regions were elected to serve on a Steering Committee for the new program.

Elected chairman of the new YBL Steering Committee was Keith Nantz of Maupin, Oregon. Nantz said the program has an important function in today’s beef industry.

“We need to engage the next generation in a way that keeps them involved and gives them opportunities,” said Nantz. “This effort will open the door to our youth in the areas of production, policy and leadership.”

Elected to the Steering Committee were Chris Jeffcoat, Pennsylvania, American Angus Association (Region I); Jacob Nyhuis, Georgia Cattlemen’s Association (Region II); Ben Novack, Iowa Cattlemen’s Association (Region III); April Bonds, Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association (Region IV); Matt Hunt, Colorado Livestock Association (Region V); Amber Miller, Nevada Cattlemen’s Association (Region VI); and Jaclyn Wilson, Nebraska Cattlemen’s Association (Region VII).

The NCBA YBL program will place particular attention on creating a strong state/national partnership, with NCBA state and breed affiliates playing a key role both in guiding the new program and in developing the young leaders in the future. Funding and staff support from NCBA will make additional state initiatives possible. Ryan Goodman is participating in the program on behalf of the Montana Stockgrowers Association.

A social for those interested in supporting the program, also sponsored by Caterpillar, was held Feb. 4.

Nantz encourages other young producers to get involved in this effort. “It’s a chance to strengthen relationships and networking, enabling growth on both the personal and industry levels,” he said.

For more information on the NCBA YBL program, contact Sara Arp at

Young Stockgrower Visits King Ranch Institute for Ranch Management

Todd Inglee Ralston Valley Beef King ranch headquartersBy Travis Brown, Sand Springs, Young Stockgrowers Vice-Chair

What an exciting time to be involved in this industry! Record high calf prices, strong demand, an expanding cow herd, and good moisture across much of the United States has made this an electrifying time in our business. I am also very encouraged by the young leaders who are looking at beef production as a great way to make a good living.

I had the opportunity last week to travel to Kingsville, TX and attend the John B. Armstrong Systems Thinking Lectureship put on by the King Ranch Institute for Ranch Management. It was a great chance to think through some of the micro- and macro-economic issues facing the beef industry ranging from questions about defining sustainability, endangered species protection, water usage, beef promotion, and production challenges. Throughout the intensive 4-day lectureship we discussed, and admired these issues hoping to begin to understand them better.

It was a humbling feeling to be surrounded by young, innovative, progressive thinkers who all have a vested interest in all of our future. The teacher of the lectureship, Michael Goodman, helped us to understand how the structure of our business or industry creates the results that it does. How we can make a long-term improvement on our ranch, or in our state Capitol that will make a lasting difference on the real problems we are facing. In out instant gratification society, it is often easy to look for the “quick fix” which may have unintended consequences to the long-term solution.

King ranch lectureshipOne of the highlights of the trip was having the chance to go on a private tour with Vice President & General Manager of the King Ranch, Dave DeLaney to get a look at where they brand the famous Running W. For over 150 years, they have run cattle in South Texas, between Corpus Christi and Brownsville. There is an incredible amount of history on this storied ranch, and an exciting future.

I could not help but be excited for what is in store for our own Young Stockgrowers. We have the upcoming Cattle Crawl, giving us a chance to interact with our consumers and show them what a great tasting, healthy, and environmentally friendly product we are proud to produce. We also have our biannual Calling on the Capitol coming up where we will have a real opportunity to interact with our legislators to make a difference on the issues facing our industry here in Montana. Our annual convention coming up in December will help us to set the policy of Montana Stockgrowers, to ensure that we have a united voice within our industry to institute positive change on the state and national level.

Registration Opens for 2014 Young Ag Leadership Conference!

YALC Young Ag Leadership Conference MontanaRegistration is now open for the eleventh annual Young Ag Leadership Conference (YALC)! This exciting, one-of-a-kind conference is set to take place October 3-5 at the Holiday Inn in Bozeman, MT. YALC is a collaborative effort between nine of Montana’s agricultural organizations, offering attendees a chance to discuss current ag issues, take part in various workshops, meet with industry leaders and network with fellow young people who live Montana agriculture.

Anyone aged 18-40 and interested or involved in agriculture is encouraged to attend. The conference is put together by a committee of representatives from each of the following: Montana Agri-Business Association, Montana Cattlemen’s Association, Montana 4-H Foundation, Montana FFA Foundation, Montana Farm Bureau Federation, Montana Farmers Union, Montana Grain Growers Association, Montana State University College of Agriculture, and the Montana Stockgrowers Association.

The weekend kicks off on Friday with never-before-offered industry tours! This optional excursion will depart the hotel at 1PM and return in time to join the rest of the incoming attendees for the social at 6 PM. Friday evening offers “Dinner and a Movie” to get participants ready for Saturday’s full schedule of workshops, discussion groups and networking opportunities.

During Saturday’s breakfast, Matt Rush will wake everyone up with his keynote, “There is a Snake in My Bumper!” Participants will then choose from an expanded slate of workshop topics including everything from using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) on your operation to water rights and what employers look for during the interviewing process. Back by popular demand, we are excited to have Dr. John Paterson of NCBA talk about opportunities available for young producers in today’s cattle market, as well as other leadership development and industry-important topics on our agenda. Saturday’s luncheon will feature an insightful and entertaining talk called “Estate Planning is Easy…If You Have a Time Machine” by Debra Conroy of Fairfield & Woods, P.C., which will be followed up with more workshops and the always well-liked discussion groups. This year’s topics highlight two important themes facing young ag producers today: Ag Issues at a Glance, a lively discussion highlighting the current issues affecting today’s agricultural industry; and Local Food Co-ops, buying local is all the rage, but where does conventional farming fit in and how can these two industries work together?

Saturday will wrap up with supper and a good old-fashioned barn dance but the event doesn’t conclude until we hear “The Impact of One” from Janice Person, Online Engagement Entrepreneur for Monsanto Company on Sunday morning.

The cost of registration is only $25 for the entire conference, with all meals provided. After the pre-registration date of September 26, fees increase to $35. To register, go to or contact Mariah Baumann Shammel at (406) 462-5639 or

Young Stockgrowers to Host Meeting at Mid-Year in Miles City

Today’s Ranching Industry & Planning for the Future

Young Stockgrowers LogoRanchers under 40 years of age have an additional reason to attend this year’s MSGA Mid Year Meeting in Miles City, June 13 & 14. Prior to the main Mid Year events, the Young Stockgrowers are hosting a workshop and leadership training geared toward younger generations on the ranch. These workshops will give young ranchers an opportunity to network with their peers and learn skills and information they can take back to the ranch.

The Young Stockgrowers meeting will be held at 1:00 p.m. on Thursday, June 12 at the Miles City Community College, Room 108. The meeting will have a series of speakers, workshops, and wrap up with a networking-social where attendees will have the opportunity to meet the Montana Stockgrowers Board of Directors.

Workshops will include:

  • “Current Topics & Issues in the Beef Industry” with Rachel Endecott, Beef Cattle Specialist with MSU Extension
  • “Improving Soil Health” with Kate Vogel, North 40 Ag Agronomist
  • “Land Appraisals” with Christine Murphy, Appraiser at Northwest Farm Credit Services
  • “You get MORE with LESH” with Monte Lesh, Broker/Owner of Lesh & Company Real Estate
  • “Online Tools for Today’s Young Stockgrower” with Ryan Goodman of Montana Stockgrowers Association

“The YSG officers have put a diversified and outstanding group of presenters together for the workshop,” said Lacey Sutherlin, Young Stockgrowers Chair. “We will conclude the workshop with a panel discussion/question & answer session including all of our presenters and finalize the deal with a social event. This will be a great place to network with other producers facing the same challenges as you are within the Ranching and Farming Industry. It is going to be an excellent event and we encourage all of you to attend at no cost to you just a great investment of your time!”

The Young Stockgrowers meeting is made possible by generous sponsors from the Montana ranching community: Jocko Valley Cattle, Volberg; ORIgen Inc., Huntley; Gateway Simmental. Lewistown; Idland Cattle Co., Circle. YSG extends a great appreciation to these companies for their support and encouragement of young ranchers in Montana.

The YSG meeting is included in 2-day registration for the Montana Stockgrowers Mid Year meeting, June 13 & 14. Registration forms can be found online at or by contacting the MSGA office at (406) 442-3420 or emailing

Enhanced by Zemanta

Developing Montana’s Youth: Montana FFA

By John Walker and Warren Krone for the Montana Stockgrowers Association’s Foundation

John Walker

John Walker, Montana FFA

Warren Krone

Warren Krone, Montana FFA

This year alone, a particular group of about 2,800 people added 3.5 million dollars to Montana’s economy alone. This group, ranging from ages 14 to 19 is known as the Montana FFA. If you don’t know FFA is a national organization with an emphasis on leadership with an agricultural background. FFA’s mission statement is “FFA makes a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth and career success.”

FFA creates the opportunities for individuals to create premier leadership through its focus on communication, interaction skills, and hands on leadership roles. With FFA, students have the ability to learn what it is to be a leader by serving as chapter officers, liaisons in their schools and also State Officers. But it doesn’t stop at the title, Montana FFA offers conferences and workshops for students to add more skills to their arsenal such as the newly installed G.O.L.D. Conference also known as Growing our Leaders and Development conference where students learn alongside their peers the values of individuality, the value of a team and the importance of professionalism.

IMG_0748Along with leadership, the organization is monumental in developing the social skills of students. In FFA it is a common courtesy to introduce yourself to as many individuals as you can. The social barriers that cage students in high school are broken once you step into an FFA event. The sense of community and unity gives students the ability to step out of their comfort zone. Some competitions promote active listening and interpersonal skills that one needs anywhere in their lives. For example, the Agricultural Sales Career Development Event makes students interact with individuals in a cold call situation. They are thrown into a scenario and have to sell a product using the knowledge gained from hours of studying, not only their own product, but competitor products as well in an attempt to make sales. These skills learned are applicable in both direct and indirect conducts; of course the ability to hold well-informed knowledge over products teamed with the ability to make a sale will give anyone a serious heads up in the marketing world, but it also gives today’s youth interpersonal communication and compatibility skills second to none.

IMG_0530Each year Montana FFA holds an annual state convention, this years’ being March 26-29 in Great Falls, with well over a thousand members in attendance giving boost to the local economy as hotels become sold out and restaurants overflow. Businesses from across the state flock to get the chance to enter a booth into the trade show where hundreds of FFA members, and potential future employees, make their way through. All while Montana’s youth from every corner of the state compete in Career Development Events, showcase their Supervised Agricultural Experiences, and listen to the inspiring words of today’s industry front-runners and tomorrow’s leaders as they share their own triumph stories and success plans.

All in all FFA is a great way to not only learn direct ag industry skills, but to develop their potential as a leader and show the true meaning of having career success as they move into today’s work force.

Enhanced by Zemanta

King Ranch® Institute for Ranch Management: Excellence in Ag Leadership Program

Travis Brown with the King Ranch® Institute for Ranch Management's Dr. Clay Mathis.

Travis Brown with the King Ranch® Institute for Ranch Management’s Dr. Clay Mathis.

The King Ranch® Institute for Ranch Management is expanding its outreach efforts by offering a 2-year leadership course called the “Excellence in Ag Leadership Program.” Travis Brown of Sand Springs, Montana (Facebook) and the current vice-chair of MSGA’s Young Stockgrowers Association, is one of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association-elected participants.

The goal of this program is to help develop the next generation of leaders in the ranching industry through a suite of lectureships and symposia offered to individuals in the agricultural industry. By attending these training sessions, engaging in the educational opportunities, and networking with other young beef leaders, participants will pave the way for future leadership roles in the ranch community.

“It’s truly an honor to have educational institutions like King Ranch® Institute, that have a legacy of leadership and business, invest in the future,” said Travis. The first meeting of the program was held in early February at the Cattle Industry Convention in Nashville.

Travis joined several other passionate young beef leaders from across the country.

Working closely with his family on their operation in South Carolina and running Spitzer Agribusiness, participant Ben Spitzer said, “The first workshop was immensely helpful in improving myself and realizing what to focus on in my professional development.”

“Working with young leaders across our industry will help us all improve, so that we can be more of a benefit to those who we contact in our business and in our communities. Iron sharpens iron,” said Ben Neale, commercial cattleman from Tennessee and Area Sales Manager for BioZyme, Inc.

Below is a video produced by MSGA’s Lauren Chase, featuring Travis, as well as Dr. Clay Mathis, the director and endowed chair of the King Ranch Institute for Ranch Management (KRIRM), part of the Dick and Mary Lewis Kleberg College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Human Sciences at Texas A&M University-Kingsville.

This leadership program will continue for the next two years with meetings at the Cattle Industry Convention and in Kingsville, TX. Be sure to follow along with the participants on the King Ranch® Institute for Ranch Management’s website, Facebook page and Twitter feed.

Enhanced by Zemanta