Yellowstone County, the most populous in Montana, is home to a blend of urban and rural communities that work together to make it a thriving industry hub. As the population steadily grows, the agriculture, energy, and healthcare industries continue to lead the economic forces and provide thousands of jobs. The agriculture sector primarily comprises receipts from wheat, barley, sugar beet, alfalfa, corn, and beef production, while the energy market is led by oil, natural gas, and coal. Billings serves as the regional healthcare destination for many individuals across Montana and Wyoming. Yellowstone County has three full-time county commissioners and one of the largest MSU Extension staff, with four agents, one program assistant, and two administrative assistants. The commissioners, MSU Extension staff, and Montana State University work together to meet the community’s diverse needs.




Agriculture & Natural Resources


Updated Master Gardener Course

At the end of 2022, a team of MSU Extension agents and the Master Gardener Coordinator implemented new hands-on programming into the Master Gardener Level 1 class. An updated, hybrid version of the class allowed participants access to online lectures with a related in-person lab each week. In Yellowstone County, the course consisted of seven in-person labs and one lecture. High-interest labs included: Soils, where students brought in soil from their gardens to conduct a texture test, jar test, and learned to read a soil test; and Botany, when students were introduced to the plant cell, plant biology, and classification. Overall, students highlighted the benefit of applying skills learned in the online videos in class labs. 




2023 Level-1 Master Gardener class participants work in the dirt in a vegetable production planting exercise

Caption: 2023 Level 1 Master Gardener class participants in a vegetable production planting exercise.

Credit: Heidi Schuler


Family & Consumer Science


Laurel Senior Center Gets Moving

At the Laurel Senior Center on Tuesday and Thursday mornings, community members engaged in a 12-week strength training series called Strong People, an exercise program designed specifically for older adults. Taught by Sara Fluer, MSU Extension Family and Consumer Science Agent, participants learned to safely perform exercises focused on progressive resistance training, balance, and flexibility. Each session saw attendance from 12-17 people, and the average age of participants was 77. As a result of participating in the Strong People program, all said they felt physically stronger, while 83% indicated their balance had improved. Exercising together also fostered a sense of belonging, with 75% reporting they felt they had strengthened social ties to their community.




Agriculture & Natural Resources


Crop and Education Garden

Yellowstone County Agriculture Agent Trestin Feagler and Horticulture Agent Heidi Schueler teamed up with the METRA Fairgrounds to bring a crop garden to Montana Fair. Billings is the largest city in Montana with a population of 117,445 as of the 2020 census. Feagler and Schueler hoped to connect city residents with limited access to rural agriculture a chance to see crops up-close. Crops such as barley, safflower, hard red spring wheat, chickpea, corn, field peas, flax, and lentils were planted and provided by the Southern Agriculture Research Center. The crop garden also held nine-square-foot gardens that were used in conjunction with School District 2 as a community garden for at-risk elementary students. Students planted and maintained garden beds for the summer. 




MSU Yellowstone County Agriculture Agent Trestin Feagler and Yellowstone County MSU Extension Intern Ashlee Fraker seed the crop garden. Photo Credit Heidi Schueler

Caption: MSU Extension Yellowstone County Agriculture Agent Trestin Feagler and Yellowstone County Intern Ashlee Fraker seed the crop garden. 

Credit: Heidi Schueler


4-H & Youth Development


'Soil Your Undies' for Science

The ‘Soil Your Undies’ Challenge kicked off in Yellowstone County in May 2023. Participants were challenged by MSU Extension Agents Trestin Feagler and Roni Baker to bury a pair of 100% cotton underwear and ’harvest‘ them from the soil 60 days later. The challenge is a way of testing soil microbial communities, and 48 pairs of underwear were provided to 4-H clubs. A soil health workshop was hosted at the end of the challenge, with speakers from MSU Extension, Yellowstone County 4-H Ambassadors, Yellowstone Weed District, and the Natural Resource Conservation Service, who taught 26 youth and adults the value of soil health and how to keep it healthy. Many participants were excited to learn more about soil science and how it interacts with plant productivity. One participant said they would “think more about what to grow in different spots. I didn’t know much about microbes and thought it was interesting.” 




Cotton Undies hanging on a clothesline after being harvested during the Soil Your Undies Challenge.

Caption: Cotton underwear hang on a clothesline after being harvested during the 'Soil Your Undies' Challenge.

Credit: Trestin Feagler


Family & Consumer Science


Brushing up on Food Preservation

Community members gathered for a workshop on home food preservation, presented by MSU Extension Family and Consumer Science Agent Sara Fluer. The workshop, held in partnership with the Billings Community Seed Library, sought to inform participants about various methods of food preservation and why using research-based information is essential to creating a safe home-preserved product. Among the topics covered, the workshop debunked outdated and commonly held myths about food preservation processes and how to avoid misinformation. With concepts reinforced through an interactive game, followed by a demonstration of testing pressure canner gauges, participants felt empowered to return to their home kitchen and preserve their harvest using reliable, research-based resources.




MSU Extension Agent, Sara Fluer, displaying various equipment used in water bath canning

Caption: MSU Extension Agent Sara Fluer displays various equipment used in water bath canning.

Credit: Elizabeth Waddington







301 N 27th St. #330
Billings, MT 59101


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