Bozeman’s ‘heartland’ values worthy of celebration

8/5/2017 Bozeman Daily Chronicle, Guest Column by John Miller, MSU Student and NextGen Advisory Board

Across from my childhood home, in central Montana, were wheat fields that stretched as far as my eyes could see. Dotted with the occasional homestead, this farmland eventually faded into the foothills and rolling slopes of the Snowy Mountain Range. As a child, like many other Montanans, I took for granted the meaning of “open space” and did not appreciate how lucky I was to grow up in such an environment. My graduating high school class consisted of four students. Yes, you read that right. Four. My only thought after graduation was, “get away from Judith Gap.” My deep agricultural roots and 4-H connections led me to attend Montana State University, in the fall of 2012. Finally. I had escaped!

Over the next few years, while I studied at Montana State, I began to realize that what I thought was a curse was actually a rare blessing. A town that consisted of a post office, two churches and a grocery store. Unfettered open space that stretched in all directions. Endless opportunities to hunt, hike and fish. A community of people that protected their children and cared for their neighbors. A placed that seemed untouched by the warping of time. A true heartland by any definition.

I began to discover that Bozeman had many of these qualities. I started to adventure away from my MSU community and explore the Gallatin Valley. I spent thousands of hours hiking, skiing, fishing and camping during my undergraduate career. I volunteered in our community, joined in on political protests, walked Main Street countless times and met the most amazing people along the way. Bozeman is the best of both worlds. A thriving college town that still embraces a heartland mentality. Open space and hiking trails that are just a short drive, bike ride or walk around the corner. Local mom and pop cafes, thriving nonprofits, tech start-ups, farmer’s markets and the annual arrival of glassy eyed college students are all pieces of our community.

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