I’m Candace Weeda Strobbe from Cascade, Montana. My husband and I are stewards of a ranching operation that includes a cow/calf herd, a replacement heifer feeding program and a haying enterprise. We were both raised in the cattle business and have a deep passion for land, livestock and rural America. I’m also a yoga instructor and believe the roots of rural America are only as healthy and resilient as the humans who live and work in these spaces. My overarching goal is to help farmers and ranchers learn how to take better care of themselves so we can have stronger, healthier rural communities. 

The ACE program was appealing to me because I believe rural leaders are critical to the future of the agriculture industry. Anytime we can intentionally put ourselves in an environment with a growth mentality it’s a net positive. I’m grateful to be part of this program and get the opportunity to learn, grow and collaborate with other leaders from around the state. It gives me energy and hope to be in a room with other people who are passionate about the future of agriculture and honest with how we can do a better job at holding space for conversations about our profession. In my opinion, the agriculture industry needs to collectively acknowledge and address the impacts our industry has on the environment and health of our society. Food is an extremely personal issue and those of us involved in raising and growing food need to be better versed at how we can encourage others to have a curious relationship with the food they eat. 

My leadership goals are to be a light in for the rural community in Cascade County. We have some wonderful people in our area and I believe, with some intentional focus, we can enhance and strengthen the threads of our ranching community. This area is rich with western culture, ranching families and diversity of resources. My hope is to bring a new perspective to how we can leverage the area’s uniqueness to strengthen our rural community. 

A critical issue in agriculture, that is extremely near and dear to my heart, is the health of people in rural America. I was raised in rural America and have lived in eight different states. What I’ve learned from my various experiences across the country is that oftentimes farmers and ranchers take better care of the health of their livestock than they do of their own health and well-being. When we consider the human beings who are living and working in rural places to raise our food, fiber and fuel, it is essential we see human health as an essential component of healthy, vibrant rural landscapes. I believe we can make immense progress in the health of our country and state’s agriculture systems by focusing on cultural change to encourage the holistic health and well-being of farmers and ranchers. If ag producers can establish and model that we genuinely care about human health, this is a wonderful way to find common ground with consumers who are choosing to purchase our products. 

Participating in ACE has helped me brainstorm and think bigger about how I can personally use my gifts to help others in rural America. Advocating for agriculture, in my opinion, needs to be about genuinely connecting with other humans. ACE has given us tools of how we can creatively think outside the box and build relationships outside the echo chamber of our industry. 

My plan is to mirror the advice of Bruce Vincent, one of our ACE speakers, and be a ripple in our local community. Being a community champion (and empowering others to do the same) seems simple, but I believe this approach will be extremely beneficial to the community of Cascade County. Improving collaboration and communication amongst the agricultural producers in our area are two specific areas I see with huge potential. 

We are part of a world that is constantly growing and changing. In order to be the best we can be as agriculturalists, but also as human beings, we have to embrace growth. The shortage of leadership skills in rural Montana is apparent and we need to rise to the occasion to ensure the future of agriculture in this great state. To create vibrant and sustainable rural communities, we must have leaders in systems thinking who are equipped with the tools to be effective communicators at the local, regional and state levels. We must ensure Montana farmers and ranchers retain the right to profitably operate in future generations.