By Gabrielle Gasser EBS STAFF
SEATTLE – A Montana-made podcast series that focuses on sharing the stories and perspectives of small-town USA launched its second season, highlighting rural issues and solutions within and beyond Montana’s borders.
Podcast founder, host and producer Megan Torgerson launched her nonfiction series “Reframing Rural” in 2020 while working toward her Master of Fine Arts in Arts Leadership at Seattle University. The idea for the project started brewing during the 2016 election when rural America was brushed aside, according to Torgerson.
“I just felt like I wasn’t seeing stories that were reflecting the experience that I had growing up in rural Montana,” said Torgerson, a Dagmar, Montana native and University of Montana alumna.
In the production of season two, called “Sowing Possibilities,” Torgerson sought to push her storytelling boundaries and bridge divides by discussing rural issues and their solutions.
As opposed to the first season where all of her subjects were in Dagmar, Torgerson branches out in the second season of “Reframing Rural” in order to gather a wider perspective on the issues that she is delving into. She said her interview subjects are scattered across the West including a few from Minnesota.
“I’m trying to move beyond geographic boundaries in this season and highlight different issues and solutions that communities and community development organizations could be implementing,” she said.
Guests for season two include Sarah Calhoun, founder of Red Ants Pants the first company dedicated to making workwear for women; Miranda Moen, a Fulbright scholar and rural architectural designer; and Randi Tanglen, Humanities Montana executive director.
The goal, according to Torgerson, isn’t merely to tell stories, it’s to discuss ideas and hopefully allow rural communities to learn from each other and work collaboratively towards solutions to place-based issues.
A few issues that Torgerson said she is invested in through the show are economic and climate resiliency, preservation of green spaces and understanding our history in the American West.
“Reframing Rural” is a true grassroots media initiative, supported by several funding sources including a Humanities Montana Regular Grant and fiscal sponsor Montana History Foundation.
Torgerson began with sharing the stories of her northeastern Montana home community to accomplish her goal of cultivating curiosity and conversation across the rural-urban divide. Episodes in season one include a deep look into how Native American history is taught in school and a Mother’s Day special that celebrated rural womanhood.
“I also hope as my home community is getting smaller, just to archive some of this history and oral histories especially for future preservation,” Torgerson said.
When she’s not working on her podcast, Torgerson is a grant writer and she does public relations and communications work for her sister’s Missoula firm Upward Public Relations. The Seattle-based host can’t stay away from her home state for very long. She frequently returns to Missoula for her work and goes back to northeastern Montana every summer to help her dad, Russ Torgerson, with the wheat harvest.
“The fate of rural America matters to everyone, no matter where you live,” Torgerson wrote in a season two press release. “Through conversations with thought-provoking rural advocates, I hope to uplift the resiliency of rural communities, stretch listeners’ social imagination and call attention to the interconnectedness of rural and urban geographies.”
Torgerson says she hopes that people feel represented by her podcast and are able to relate to the experiences shared by guests.
“I just hope that it inspires conversation and action,” she said.