By Stacy Bronec

“I’m fascinated by stories,” says Jesse Thompson, founder of Beyond the Fencelines. “I’ve always been drawn to stories, especially from the older generations and what we can learn from them.”

Thompson grew up on a family farm east of Sunburst and was drawn to the animals, the rural lifestyle, and the people. She spent the summers riding bareback with her sister, and she never considered anything outside of a life in agriculture because she loved it so much.

“We were pretty lucky looking back to grow up like that,” she reminisces.

After high school, Thompson attended college at MSU Bozeman, which she says was a big culture shock. Her time in college solidified her love of agriculture and the rural lifestyle even more.

“I always knew I wanted to be in agriculture and raise my kids in this lifestyle, but I didn’t know what that would look like,” she says.

Thompson completed a bachelor’s degree in Animal Science and eventually, traded her farm roots for ranch life.

“I never expected to meet my husband and get to live on a ranch 30 miles from where I grew up.”

Jesse and her husband, Chance, run a commercial cow/calf operation in the Sweetgrass Hills; Chance is the 5th generation on their place. Jesse also works from home as the Executive Administrator for the Montana Angus Association and is the Editor/Publisher of the Montana Angus News. They have two daughters, Clementine and Adrianna, and a son, Chisholm, born in July.

Even though Jesse grew up on a farm and was used to isolation, she felt unexpectedly lonely in the early days of motherhood. She stumbled upon a blog and felt comfort reading stories from other women in the trenches of new motherhood. But, as much as she loved the stories, she felt like something was missing—the rural aspect.

The seed was planted, and she knew she wanted to create a space for rural women; “Rural women are unique; their whole lives are entwined from the farm and ranch to being a wife and a mom, where they work and live. I wanted a place for rural women to connect.”

Thus, Beyond the Fencelines was born, although she didn’t have the name yet. Thompson decided she wanted to start a collaborative blog for women to share their stories about motherhood and marriage, but all with a rural narrative.

Around this time, Thompson began sharing more of her story on social media. She disclosed the highs and the lows of rural living and the challenges women on a farm and ranch face.

“Sharing my story helped me in ways I never expected,” she says. “I started connecting with women from all over the world that I would never have if I hadn’t started sharing my story.”

In 2021, she attended Rural Rooted—a retreat for rural women entrepreneurs to collaborate. Over and over at the retreat, she heard women discussing similar struggles in their lives, struggles that most women in agriculture don’t talk about. Thompson hopes to feature these heartfelt stories on her website— stories for rural women by rural women. Stories on marriage, motherhood, working with family, farming, ranching, the impact of natural disasters, and more. It was during Rural Rooted that she settled on the name.

“I love all the metaphors that come up with fencelines,” she says. “I know we all put up these huge fences around our lives and hearts, hoping to protect ourselves. But I’ve seen what can happen when we let other people in.” If you have a story that goes beyond your fenceline—Jesse is looking for submissions. The website is set to launch in late summer, and you can find submission guidelines and read the published “Fenceline Features” at beyondthefencelines.com. You can join the Beyond the Fencelines community on Facebook and Instagram, too.

“The stories rural women can tell…” Thompson says with a laugh. “We rural women go through things other people can’t understand.”

That’s what Jesse hopes to cultivate: a place for rural women to be honored and celebrated.

A place for rural women to connect— even though they may be miles apart.

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