by Amy Pearson
Megan Torgerson grew up as the youngest of four daughters on a farm and ranch south of Dagmar Montana. Her mother claims that even at the age of three, Torgerson was able to “keep someone company” on a long drive. Torgerson interprets that as meaning that she was a chatty and curious kid. Ultimately those qualities have served her well in the variety of ways she has been able to creatively contribute to the world.
Torgerson’s mom is from Montreal and her grandparents were from Germany and Slovakia. Her older sisters are travelers, so although she was raised in rural Northeast Montana, Torgerson had a sense growing up that she was in a “waiting room” of sorts before the rest of her life would unfold.
Torgerson studied English with a focus in creative writing at the University of Montana. She studied abroad in the Czech Republic and worked as an au pair in Germany. She lived in Portland where she worked with a documentary filmmaker who was interested in the West. And it was there that she started getting curious about where she was from.
After a few years in Asheville, North Carolina with her husband, Torgerson applied to graduate school at Seattle University. In her letter of application to the program, she noted that she was interested in creating a project pertaining to the arts in a rural setting. During a class about creating podcasts offered through the theology department which included an NPR radio producer out of Seattle, Torgerson zeroed in on her project.
Reframing Rural is an award-winning podcast geared towards “cultivating curiosity and conversation across geographic, class and cultural divides.” Torgerson’s mission is to share stories of people and places in rural America that aren’t necessarily well represented in popular narratives regarding what it means to be rural. To date, three seasons of the podcast have been recorded and shared.
Season One: Coming Home is dedicated to Torgerson’s homeplace of Sheridan County, Montana. She interviews farmers, ranchers, preachers, teachers, and people in the oil and gas industry. Season Two: Sowing Possibility includes stories about people making livelihoods focused on celebrating and sustaining rural America. Season Three: Groundwork is all about addressing issues that rural folks are navigating such as farm succession, gentrification and affordability.
Torgerson’s work on the podcast goes beyond what gets heard, though. She says that part of what she’s doing is just sitting down with people. In that process, stories get shared, and connections get made. People learn that their experiences and their perspectives matter. Nuance gets added to the narrative regarding the identity of what it means to be rural. Plus, Torgerson has a directed excuse to follow her curiosity through her research. “I love writing,” she says.
“Sometimes it’s hard to reflect about where you come from and who you are. But ultimately it feels healing, and I hope it feels that way for other people, too.”
Before the next season of Reframing Rural, Torgerson is hosting a retreat where some of her creative friends will join her for a few days of brainstorming. She enjoys the collaborative process of idea development and notes that the work is better when it’s not just in her head. She will also send out a listener survey to obtain feedback about what people want to hear.
Torgerson is also busy co-producing a short documentary film about two first generation women ranchers in Montana with Zach Altman and Anthony Pavkovich that has the working title “Mother Range.” Additionally, she is contracting with the Red Ants Pants Foundation to research the needs of rural organizations across the state that have received grant funding from the Foundation.
Tune into Reframing Rural on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Butte America Radio, Gallatin Valley Radio, Missoula Community Radio, Missoula Community Access Television, and anywhere podcasts are available. To learn more about this project or to contribute to the cause, visit reframingrural.org.