By Madelynn Nelson
As the new year rolled around, I found myself in my Jeep, packed up and driving 1200 miles from home. I made the decision to move from a small town in Iowa, to Butte, Montana. The summer after my senior year of high school, I took a vacation with my brothers and my grandparents to Colombia Falls, Montana. For two weeks, we stayed with my grandpa’s sister and explored the beauty of Montana. I had already enrolled in college in Iowa, so I didn’t decide to attend college in this beautiful state, but I did tell myself, “One day you will live here.”
As my senior year of college came to a close and I was graduating, I knew I needed to find a job. I spent time serving for Green Iowa AmeriCorps in the summer of 2018, and as much as I enjoyed it, I wanted something different. I began looking for AmeriCorps positions in Montana and came across Energy Corps. I applied and crossed my fingers, and about a week later, I had a phone interview scheduled. Another week went by, and I had accepted my position and it was decided that I was moving to Montana. What an exciting adventure I had in store!
I knew I loved Montana in the summer time, so I was sure to love it in the winter time, too, right? My friends and family thought I was crazy for moving in the middle of winter and that I was sure to hate it because I didn’t like Iowa winters. Being here in January, it was surprising that a mild winter was taking place. I was expecting the weather to be just as cold, if not colder, than Iowa. But it wasn’t. The other girls and I were able to go hiking in January in sweatshirts and not even worry about getting cold. I have loved it here so far!
The first couple of weeks at my host site were slow and consisted of learning the ropes of the office and the basis of my service. As the new Sustainable Agriculture Educator, I became familiar with all types of farm energy resources and researched sustainable farming practices to no end. I was shell shocked. Agriculture in Montana is way different than agriculture in Iowa.
As I got more familiar with my service, things started to pick up. I was introduced to all of the alumni of the Armed to Farm program nationally, and they were all very welcoming. The Armed to Farm program is a program for military veterans to learn about sustainable agriculture practices and transition into a farming lifestyle after their service. I received many emails welcoming me to the NCAT team and inviting me to visit their farms whenever, even the ones all the way in West Virginia when I was in Montana. I am so excited to learn more about these farmers and how they practice sustainable agriculture and energy conservation on their own farms!