Learning how to advocate for agriculture has been a one-year endeavor for seven motivated Montana Farm Bureau members who graduated from the ACE program last week during the MFBF 100th Annual Convention. ACE, which stands for Advocate. Communicate. Educate emphasizes leadership development, issue education and the engagement of local communities.  The participants—all active farmers or ranchers—spent 2019 honing skills at six seminars to help them learn to be stronger communicators and create lasting connections within their local communities.

During the graduation luncheon, well-known farm broadcaster and owner of Northern Ag Network, Taylor Brown addressed the seven graduates and audience. He noted that being a leader requires skillful communications and said that ACE graduates should keep three thoughts in mind: 1) Decide what to do with the investment made in them 2) Set a goal and 3) Do something to make a difference.

“Find something that matters to you, then grow it bigger than you are by engaging others,” he said. “Have a core group of people who think like you do. Remember, we need you to make a difference and be leaders in sharing your expertise in farming and ranching.”

ACE Coordinator Chelcie Cargill talked about the innovative program. “Taking a slightly different approach to advocacy training, ACE challenges participants to take a hard look at mainstream advocacy strategies and their individual leadership talents.  The program emphasizes thinking critically about how our own communication may be hindering our ability to connect with people outside of agriculture.” 


The 2019 ACE Graduates:

  • Bill McLean is a diversified crop and hog farmer from Brady and is a member of Front Range Counties Farm Bureau. 
  • JM Peck ranches near Melrose and is the president of Southwest Counties Farm Bureau. 
  • Kathy Teter from Huntley is a member of Yellowstone County Farm Bureau.
  • Cyndi Johnson is a farmer from Conrad and is the president of Front Range County Farm Bureau and Vice President of Montana Farm Bureau.
  • Doreen Gillespie is a rancher from Ethridge and a member of Front Range County Farm Bureau.
  • Rhonda Hergenrider raises crops and hogs near Bridger and is president of Carbon/Stillwater County Farm Bureau.
  • Jess Bandel, a wheat farmer from Floweree, is the president of Choteau County Farm Bureau.

“All of the ACE participants invested much of their time, energy and talent into becoming stronger advocates. They worked hard at building on their leadership and communication skills to help create positive and lasting connection with people outside of agriculture,” said Cargill. “It was an honor to work with each of them and I’m excited to see them put their skills and talents to use in their own communities and for Montana agriculture.”