Warm holiday greetings to you and yours! My heart is full this holiday as I reflect back on this past year and all there is to look forward to this week and in 2024!
Tomorrow I'm heading to Missoula to spend Christmas with my parents and three older sisters. It's been some time now that we've spent a Christmas together at the farm and ranch where I was raised - Missoula being an easier hub for all to get to - but every December always brings back memories of ice skating on ponds, sledding with my cousins and neighbors, singing Silent Night by candlelight at our little country church and dancing around the Christmas tree in the church basement while singing Nu är det jul igen, Danish for "now it is Christmas again." Holding hands young and old, we'd make concentric circles around the tree. As Nu är det jul igen progressed, we'd start singing faster and faster in broken Danish, then stomp our feet to change the direction of the spinning circles. When I was really little, my feet would leave the ground and I'd literally fly around the Christmas tree! I'm grateful my rural community made Christmases so magical. It was a time I looked forward to all year.
Whether you're surrounded by the glistening lights of a city, or the dark and starry skies of the country this holiday season, I hope you find, or remember, a bit of the magic so readily available to us as children.
Reframing Rural Founder & Producer
10 Reframing Rural Highlights from 2023
Moving back home to Montana!
This is a picture of Andrew and I having the time of our life when Marty Stuart played at Red Ants Pants Music Festival in White Sulphur Springs, MT this year, but it captures the pure joy I felt crossing the ID panhandle into MT this June! I've crossed Lookout Pass many times for reporting trips and trips to see family over the past years, but this time the car was packed to the brim and after eight years of moving around the country, I felt the excitement of re-establishing roots again!
Season 4 Planning Retreat!
Last month Reframing Rural story editor, Mary Auld and friend and collaborator, Zach Altman joined me in Twin Bridges, MT for a weekend of brainstorming around the future direction of RR. Seasoned journalist Anthony Pavkovich also Zoomed in, helping contribute ideas for future RR episodes. I was so grateful to have three great minds working with me to identify the most pertinent rural issues to cover, as well how to creatively shape stories to be entertaining and impactful.
Receiving Third Coast Award!
Shout out to Mary Auld and RR audio engineer and composer, Aaron Spieldenner and the rest of his team at Hazy Bay Music for their role in shaping Season 3 episode, Farm Succession in Northeast Montana. This story featured my family and another Dagmar family as we navigated succession planning for our farms. It's the most vulnerable story I've ever produced and it was named a finalist in the impact category by international audio festival, Third Coast!
Reporting in new rural communities!
For Season 3 I got to do in-person reporting in new small towns in MT! Man does it elevate a story when I can see and smell and taste the goods from a community. In Winnett, I was welcomed by ranchers who took me around their corrals, let me join conservation planning meetings and fed me their beef. In Ledger, I became friends with farmers who were so generous with their time, opening their hearts and minds to me by sharing the complex dynamics of family farming.
Having my parents save the day!
My parents have played an important role throughout the five years I've worked on RR. They've shared stories, ideas and their farm and ranch knowledge. This year they saved the day when I hit a deer reporting in Ledger. They drove up to the Hi-Line to get me and caught the tail end of my reporting trip when John Wicks brought out his family's carousel slide projector and we looked at vibrant old photos of his farm. This was a lot of fun for us all and a story I'll never forget.
Collaborating on a short doc film!
This year I started collaborating on another media project, a short doc film co-produced by Anthony Pavkovich, Zach Altman and myself! The film stars two first-generation women ranchers and mothers in Montana, Amber Smith and Jaimie Stoltzfus. We wrapped filming this fall and are starting to edit the story this winter! I have learned so much working in a new medium and collaborating with two sharp-witted and creative individuals. So grateful to be part of the project!
Conducting a Rural Needs Assessment for Red Ants Pants Foundation!
This is a photo of Morb Wicks, recipient of a RAPF Community Grant. For the needs assessment, I interviewed past grant recipients to help RAPF identify ways they could better support rural Montanans. I conducted surveys, group listening sessions and travelled around MT for site-visits and interviews. I learned so much about the needs in rural MT and am so grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with RAPF in this impactful way!
Billings Gazette feature!
It was really special for me to see this story in the Gazette, the paper delivered to E. MT farms and ranches like mine for generations. Jake Iverson started the article with "You know the sounds of the prairie. There’s the high, lonesome call of the curlew. And the low murmur of cattle. And of course the omnipresent wind, which whirls around the plains and up the gullies, whipping the ubiquitous grass into a state of constant, rustling movement. Megan Torgerson is adding a new sound."
Common Ground Storytelling Retreat!
This summer I was invited to a storytelling retreat in the beautiful Tom Miner Basin. The host, the Common Ground Project, is a space where people gather to foster connections with one another and the natural world, create community through collaboration, and encourage healing for people and the environment, worldwide. For me, it was a time of welcomed, deep reflection on my role as a storyteller and memoirist. I made new friends and left feeling amped and inspired!
Mountain & Prairie Interview!
On my birthday this year, my interview with Ed Roberson was published on his celebrated podcast, Mountain & Prairie! I've been a listener of Mountain & Prairie since 2016 when I was living in Asheville, NC. It was really encouraging to be invited onto the show and was a fun experience to be interviewed by such as skilled interviewer. I'm really grateful for the interview as it introduced Reframing Rural to a whole host of new listeners who are invested in land conservation in the West.
Coming up next!
In January I'm teaching a four-week, in-person class, Reframing Rural: Rural Representations in the Media & Rural Issues in the West, through the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Montana State University in Bozeman. The course begins January 24 and will use film, podcasts, print and other media to examine both romanticized and negative rural stereotypes. It will explore dominant rural narratives in society, the pervasiveness of "urbanormativity," and the link between rural stereotypes and resource extraction. We will also examine the movement to reframe rural, and media that aims to positively impact rural places and people.
Over the weekend of February 9 I will be the keynote speaker at Montana Farmers Union Women's Conference in Fairmont Hot Springs!
Reframing Rural Swag!
Just launched this month: official Reframing Rural merchandise⚡️🤩✨! Order a tee, hooded zip-up sweatshirt, coffee mug or tote bag for a fellow Reframing Rural listener or treat yourself this holiday season!
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