Montana State University

Outstanding agriculture leaders to be honored at MSU event Oct. 25

October 16, 2013 -- MSU News Service

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MSU News Service
Tel: (406) 994-4571

BOZEMAN – The Montana State University College of Agriculture will present its annual Outstanding Agricultural Leader awards during the annual Celebrate Agriculture!! event scheduled for Oct. 25-26 at MSU.

The awards for Montana outstanding leaders in agriculture will go to William (Bing) Von Bergen of Moccasin and Tom and Mary Kay Milesnick of Belgrade. The public is invited to congratulate the recipients at a noon luncheon in the Strand Union Building ballrooms on Friday, Oct. 25.

This year’s recipients exhibited outstanding leadership in agricultural and public service to Montana, Montana State University and the northern Rockies region. They have a rich and lengthy history in leadership roles as agricultural producers, industry advocates and agri-business leaders. A selection committee comprised of three Montana agriculture representatives, a College of Agriculture faculty member and an MSU student reviewed the applications. MSU’s College of Agriculture has presented Outstanding Agriculture Leader awards since 1999.

Von Bergen, along with his wife Lois, has been farming near Moccasin for more than 30 years. He graduated from high school in Stanford and served three years in the United States Army, after which Von Bergen attended Montana State University. Working for the U.S. Postal Service and farming leased ground with his father, Von Bergen gradually purchased more acreage and built Heartland Seed Company after the local elevator closed in 1994.

The business originally provided seed cleaning services, but it quickly expanded into seed production and sales. In 2003, Von Bergen was elected to the Montana Grain Growers Association board of directors, served five years on its executive board, one of which as president in 2009. Currently, Von Bergen is president of the National Association of Wheat Growers and has served as an executive board member since 2010. Von Bergen is recognized nationally as an articulate spokesman and leader for the wheat industry of Montana.

Tom and Mary Kay Milesnick are third generation ranchers on the East Gallatin River, in Belgrade. Tom’s grandfather settled the valley in 1936 and Tom and Mary Kay continue to operate that cattle operation today – currently sitting at 525 cow-calf pairs.

Their ranch has long worked cooperatively with Montana State University, which includes research on livestock and soils. Tom also offers hands-on experience and participation for MSU classes on his ranch.

Tom and Mary Kay have been immensely influential in regard to their understanding and prioritization of environmental resources and conservation. The Milesnicks worked alongside MSU researchers and developed a unique and innovative approach to short-duration grazing for riparian areas, pasture rotation and stream habitat restoration. Spending several years rejuvenating the two major spring creeks on their ranch, the Milesnicks ultimately were able to mitigate the pressure of fishing and recreation on the creeks, and were able to preserve the natural resource.

The couple also began Milesnick Recreation, a nationally and internationally recognized business that provides access to fishing and waterfowl recreation.

The Von Bergen and Milesnick families have both served in many other capacities at the local, county, state and national levels: 4-H, school and county boards, conservation and watershed districts, the Montana Public Lands Council, local bank boards and the Montana Farm Bureau Association, among others.

Contact: Susan Fraser, (406) 994-3683,, or Robin Happel, (406) 994-3681,