February brings new local FSA director

Liz Bradshaw became the new FSA Fergus and Petroleum county executive director after four years as an FSA program technician.

Photo by Jenny Gessaman

FSA CED is alphabet soup for most people, but, for Liz Bradshaw, it’s a title she’s excited to take on. After a year of training, Bradshaw is now county executive director at the local Farm Service Agency office. She’s coming into the position after five years in the FSA, four of which she spent as a program technician. Technicians also staff FSA offices, working with producers to fill out applications for Farm-Bill-related programs. Bradshaw liked her previous job, but felt it wasn’t enough. Being county executive director fixed that. “It gives me the ability to better help my producers,” she said. Bradshaw explained her hands were sometimes tied when it came to representing producers. Now she stills works faceto-face with clients, but can go to bat for them, too. Working with ag producers is a passion for Bradshaw, albeit an unexpected one. She attended Bozeman’s Montana State University looking to get into commercial livestock production, with an eye towards feedlots. Her time in one of Massachusetts’s agricultural high schools had pointed her towards that goal. However, her college experiences turned her in a different direction. “I learned I really liked working with producers face to face, instead of on computers,” she said. Bradshaw went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in animal science, with a focus on livestock production and industry. With her plan shifted, she was anxious to get a job. “After four years of college, I was done,” she said. “When I first started working with the FSA, I thought, ‘I just need a job, and I just need to get a foot in the door.’” So Bradshaw became an FSA program technician in Forsyth. Over the next four years, she discovered a career she loved and a setting she was passionate about. “I just fell in love with Montana and the small-town lifestyle,” she said. When the opportunity came to train as an executive director, Bradshaw and her husband decided it was one she had to take. It would provide financial security, but, more importantly, would allow both to live in an area they like, doing what they like. The yearlong program had pros and cons for Bradshaw. She did have to review USDA programs she was already familiar with, but she also learned management skills, something she didn’t take college courses on. “It was a little frustrating on the program side of it, but I knew I needed the management training,” she said. Bradshaw trained in Judith Basin County, spending her weeks in Stanford and commuting home to Hysham for the weekends. “There were advantages to [the training] for sure, but it was very difficult,” she said. “It was like I had two different lives.” While county executive director is the next step in moving up the FSA career ladder, Bradshaw doesn’t see herself climbing away any time soon. The couple recently moved to Windham, and higher-up FSA positions focus on management, meaning they don’t often deal directly with producers. This job also keeps Bradshaw involved in the rural Montana she’s come to love. “It’s a great way to get involved in your community, work in your community and help your community,” she said.



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