work journal

Moderating a panel discussion for Farm to Crag

November 20, 2023

After 23 years of asking questions for a living, I did it live for the first time this September when I moderated a panel for Farm to Crag, highlighting three leaders in the Montana food system. 

My friend Kate Rutherford founded the nonprofit in 2019 to empower climbers to support healthy, sustainable food production. The events combine outdoor adventure, farming and outrageously good food. When board member Esther Smith organized a Bozeman event this year, I leaped at the opportunity to convene a panel of folks I’d met through my past reporting. 

That night at Little Star Diner, Latrice Tatsey, Tim Seipel and Nathaniel Powell-Palm discussed land and mentorship, both in the panel and a community conversation with the 50+ attendees. 

Nate is an organic farmer in the Gallatin Valley and Sheridan, Wyoming, and chair of the USDA National Organic Standards Board. He fished with us that morning, spent six hours that afternoon harvesting at his farm, and reappeared right before the panel, cheeks red from work and sun. 

Tim, a plant ecology professor at MSU, joined us midday for lunch and volunteering at Rocky Creek Farm, but not before coaching his 7-year-old’s soccer team, the Lionesses, in a game. In addition to his teaching and research, Tim helps organic farmers around Montana innovate weed management through MSU Extension. 

Latrice drove five hours from her home in Badger Creek on the Blackfeet Nation to be with us. Formerly the lead of cultural ecology for Piikani Lodge Health Institute’s regenerative grazing initiative, she recently moved to the Natural Resources Conservation Service, part of the USDA, as an American Indian Tribal Liaison. Listening to her talk about teaching her interns to study historic teepee rings to understand wind direction before building snow fences has me sure of one thing: We might learn a lot from the original stewards of this land. 

“In our culture, we always give something back before we take,” Latrice said at the end of the panel. “It’s important to remember those relationships are reciprocal. … we view this as Mother Earth, and in that way, it’s taking care [of the land] in the ways you would honor your mother.” 

I feel so grateful and honored they came.

Photos by Seth Langbauer and Paige Engelhardt Southwood

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