Rural-Focused Gathering for Policymakers, Funders and Partners Planned for Townsend

by Colter Brown

BOZEMAN — Rural-focused policymakers, funders and partners are invited to participate in a Reimagining Rural gathering on Tuesday, June 13, in Townsend.  

Reimagining Rural is a program offered through Montana State University Extension that invites community members in small towns to hear new ideas for rural community vitality. The events are meant to inspire and motivate attendees to imagine a brighter future for their towns.

The June 13 event will showcase effective ways of working with rural communities, celebrate rural community vitality initiatives and prompt discussions about how organizations can work more effectively in Montana’s small and rural communities. Registration costs $50 and includes lunch.

“There is a lot of innovation and success happening in rural Montana right now. We are excited to bring those interested in rural communities together to talk about how to build off these successes,” said Tara Mastel, planning team member and community development associate specialist for MSU Extension. 

The event’s morning session includes a panel that will share research and best practices for working in rural Montana. Kris Smith of Headwaters Economics in Bozeman will discuss the new Rural Capacity Index; Tracy McIntyre of the Montana Cooperative Development Center will share recent success using the cooperative model for rural challenges; and Kaia Peterson of NeighborWorks Montana will discuss rural housing needs.

Also in the morning session, Taylor Crowl of the Montana Community Foundation will address the role local community foundations play in rural communities, and a representative from the Montana Department of Commerce will share modifications the department is undergoing to make their programs more accessible to rural communities Additionally, Mastel will present research on newcomers moving into Montana communities. 

The afternoon session will feature presentations and a panel of five small-town community leaders discussing their successful revitalization projects. Community members from Broadus, Cut Bank, Forsyth, Roundup and Worden will talk about how they sparked ideas, participation and excitement in their communities. The projects these communities accomplished included beautification efforts, welcoming events and even community re-branding projects, Mastel said. USDA Rural Development State Director for Montana Kathleen Williams will facilitate a panel discussion featuring the community members. 

Following the panel discussion, attendees will be invited to discuss how they can work more effectively in rural communities. The event will conclude with an optional walking tour of Townsend’s main street and a social.

This Reimagining Rural gathering is a collaboration between MSU Extension and the Montana Community Foundation. The effort is sponsored by the Montana Department of Commerce and the Montana Cooperative Development Center.

To learn more or to register, visit

Questions may be directed to Mastel at

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