Photos and story by Paige Southwood
The wind whipped through the hay fields as the temperatures continued to drop. Negative 20, 30, and on until the Montana chill finally steadied at a confident -40 degrees Fahrenheit. Kelly Beevers, founder, and president of advisory firm Topos and Anthros had barely finished unpacking boxes in her remote log cabin in Winnett, Montana, while she sat shivering in her living room. The winter weather couldn’t avoid seeping through the floorboards and weak insulation of her pre-made Amish wood trailer. Not even her hearty wood stove could fight the freeze.
This may have been one of those moments when Kelly’s thoughts drifted to her comfortable home and life in San Antonio, Texas just eight years prior. Living as a commercial real estate developer, she had all the ease that comes from city life with a generous income. And it made sense. On paper, that is. Her double major in finance and accounting at Texas A&M University paved a clear road to a life of convenience and corporate ladders. But even though Beevers had grown up dutifully taking on responsibility and societal expectations as the oldest of five kids in a middle-class Evangelical Christian family, she sensed there was something waiting for her beyond San Antonio.
“I was so comfortable that I had drowned out my inner voice, my inner knowing — but it doesn’t go away,” she says. “At some point, there is a reckoning.”
That reckoning for Beevers came on a trip to visit the mountainous state of Montana on vacation with her family.
“When I first came to Montana, I felt like I was putting on my favorite pair of jeans,” she says.
Just six months later, Montana was home and San Antonio was in the rearview mirror. She was never taking off those jeans.
But Montana isn’t for the faint of heart. Her decision and resolve would be tested time and time again. For a Texan who grew up with the, “everything is bigger in Texas” mentality, Montana forced her to accept her humanity, and in so doing, her humility.
“Montana doesn’t fuck around,” Beevers insists. “It reminds you there is something so much larger than you — that I am part of something so much bigger and outside of my control.”
And this felt like home to Kelly. She likes to recollect how her green Ford Explorer from high school was dented because of all the times she would invite friends to lay on its roof and watch the stars.
“I was always drawn to the idea that there is something bigger than me going on and I have a role in it,” she says.
It would be many more years and a few career transitions before Beevers would finally discover her role in that bigger story. Today, Kelly works with landowner collaboratives and other nonprofits to support rural communities that can benefit from healthy land use programs, education, and community-building projects. The end goal is to see an ecosystem and way of life revitalized simultaneously. One of her current projects includes supporting Winnett ACES, a local nonprofit whose mission is to strengthen the community by sustaining the health of the land, economy, and traditions for future generations. Beevers does everything from baking cookies for the local community gathering to writing grant proposals in search of funding opportunities.
Kelly describes her work as, “Drawing constellations out of the stars — not creating the universe — not trying to solve anything. It might look like chaos in an overwhelming space of individual agendas and projects out there, but wouldn’t it be so beautiful if this made the difference?”
Her success is palpable. Walking down the main street of Winnett, a city with just under 200 residents in a county of just under 500 residents, Kelly stops to talk to almost everyone she passes, calling them by name and asking about their ranch or their relatives or the recent rain. She’s got a smile to match the energy she exudes in every interaction.
Beevers asks herself daily, “How do I support communities in realizing visions? How do I add capacity and energy to people who deeply care about their place?”
A strong sense of place comes naturally to Kelly. When she was just nine years old, she and her family moved to a small ranch with 120 acres where her dad relieved his stress by working cows on their hobby farm. The smell of cattle and dirt-stained boots is in her blood.
“Being connected to my food system, being connected to the land offers this unconscious element that ties you to something bigger than you,” she says. “It’s an invitation to let go and pay attention and be in concert with something instead of just blaring something over it.”
Even her job in commercial real estate connected her to the sense of how real things — land, buildings, etc., build community and strengthen people’s lives.
But Montana is where that longing to interact with community and agricultural traditions finally came full circle.
“In Montana, it was finally quiet enough for me to hear that inner knowing,” Beevers reflects.
She not only understands her calling and role in this community she now calls home, but she can relate and empathize to the difficulty of change and uncertainty experienced by many in the rural ranching collaboratives.
“When you’re actively in a place of change, being forced beyond a cultural confine that you’ve become comfortable in, it’s not easy, not for the faint of heart,” she says. “I had no other way — my only option was to go back to Texas [if I failed]. I’ve committed to that mystery of uncertainty. I get to come alongside communities that have different levels of comfort with that and hold them where they are.”
Finding comfort in the discomfort and then searching for solutions finally led Kelly to take charge of her winter cabin icebox situation and affect lasting change. She loaded up her truck with her pups and a whole lot of Texas audacity to believe she could do anything and headed to her neighboring Hutterite community. There, she purchased a few hay bales and surrounded her freezing abode with the natural insulation. A creative solution using local resources to problem solve.
But neither the howling wind nor accumulating snow drifts could deter the adopted Montanan from her mission to work supporting rural communities to achieve agrarian feats.
“I trust all the uncertainty in it,” Kelly says.
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