REAL Mont. Leadership class travels to China
Members of the brand-new REAL Montana leadership program (Resource Education and Agriculture Leadership) took part in their first international study seminar to China Jan. 8-18, 2015. Four days were spent in Beijing, where the class met with Ambassador Max Baucus at the U.S. Embassy and received briefings on U.S./China agriculture and energy issues. The class toured a modern ecological farm, the vertically integrated Fu-Hua Meat Company which is a feedlot, processing facility, and restaurant all on one property, and the Hopefull Grain & Oil soybean processing company. Cultural activities in Beijing included climbing the Great Wall, visiting Tiananmen Square, and touring the Hutong neighborhood by rickshaw. The class traveled via overnight train from Beijing to Hohhot in China’s Inner Mongolia province. Inner Mongolia is China’s largest producer of dairy and coal. There the REAL Montana class toured a large dairy farm and processing facility of Yili Industrial Group and an open pit coal mine. They also visited the Dazhao Temple, a Tibetan Buddhist temple built during the Ming Dynasty. The final days of the trip were spent in Shanghai, where the class met with representatives from the U.S. Agricultural Trade Office and U.S. Meat Export Federation and joined them for a retail tour of the CitySuper specialty grocery store. A day was spent in the Caoyang residential community where the class interacted with residents at their cultural center, library, and neighborhood market. Throughout the trip, participants heard from experts on Chinese agriculture, natural resources, and history and shared meals in the homes of local people.
REAL Montana class member, Whitney Klasna of Lambert, summed up her China experience by saying, “From the cows to coal mines and Hutong to Pudong, China was the most amazing experience of my life! By seeing firsthand the back-breaking work it takes to raise a crop on a small patch of land that you can’t even call your own, it made me very aware of the struggles that China is having to feed and provide for their ever growing population. This experience also gave me insight to the possibilities of future US agriculture and natural resource exports to China.”
The inaugural class of REAL Montana consists of 19 emerging leaders representing a wide variety of natural resource industries across the state. The two-year program features eight in-state seminars, a national study tour in Washington D.C., and an international trip. Each seminar is a mix of educational speakers, tours, and professional skill building designed to build a network of informed and engaged leaders to advance the natural resource industries in Montana.
REAL Montana is funded through a partnership with Montana State University Extension and private industry. Oversight is provided by an advisory board of industry leaders. The program will start accepting applications for Class II on March 1, 2015.