North Dakota Rancher Discovers New Possibilities at RuralX

Posted on December 21, 2017

Paula Jensen
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Katy Kassian of Regan, North Dakota (population 44) attended the first RuralX conference in 2016 and quickly wondered why she was the only person there from North Dakota. A rancher and small business owner for her rural area, Katy is the go-to person for several small towns twenty-five miles in any direction.

“I took pages and pages of notes and was blown away by the event. I loved the camaraderie between communities and the willingness to share assets and resources. I knew this was something more people from my very rural area needed to attend,” she explains.

Katy returned to RuralX17 along with Tana Larsen, the Economic Development Director from nearby Washburn.

“She was just as impressed as I was,” says Katy. “We were both motivated by the work being done in Miller, and we used their model to help create our own Hometown Holiday event in Washburn this year. Our event featured four pop-up shops, a roving photographer, ponies dressed as reindeer and gingerbread house decorating.”

Katy says they also realized the importance of keeping kids connected to their rural roots, and have since gotten kids involved in projects through the school.

“My reasons for wanting this area to thrive are partly selfish. For one, I don’t want to have to drive fifty miles for a gallon of milk…but mostly, I want my kids to want to come back here. That means we need to give them something to come back to,” she explains.

Katy began helping people connect with resources and tools for rural development out of frustration and her love of a good challenge, but has since turned her passion for rural into a consulting job that “pays more than just a bottle of wine.”

“One of my goals is to get at least ten communities from North Dakota to attend RuralX18,” she says. “I believe RuralX18 will show them that no matter how small or remote we are, we have something to promote and build on. It’s about changing some old mindsets and getting creative.”

Katy’s love for RuralX has her promoting the event in places like Lovelock, Nevada, where she told a group to grab a plane and head for South Dakota for RuralX18.

“I have attended a lot of rural events across the country, and there is nothing like RuralX,” she says. “This is truly a rural event, held in a rural area, for rural people. The things you will hear pertain to small, rural communities. Some of the places in South Dakota are just doing amazing things and it is very motivating. I loved it so much I asked to be on the planning committee!”

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