Updated: Sep 9
About the Episode
Natalie takes us through her journey in the agricultural sector, sharing the genesis of the Elevate Ag community, a platform fostering deeper connections and understanding in the agricultural space. She reflects on the global challenges faced by the agricultural community, emphasizing the need for heightened awareness and constructive dialogues.
We delve into the vibrant world of the Kovarik Cattle Co, where family traditions meet modern agricultural practices, offering a glimpse into the nurturing environment characterized by respect for land and animal welfare.
The episode also unveils Natalie's exciting future plans, including a docuseries that promises to bring unseen stories from various farms and ranches to the forefront, adding a visual dimension to the "Discover Ag" podcast.
Join us as we explore Natalie's harmonious vision, where leadership meets passion, and stories become the bridge connecting family, community, and agriculture.
Key Themes and Takeaways
Personal Journey to Agriculture
Learn about Natalie's rich background, growing up in a fourth-generation cattle ranching family in southwest Montana.
Despite venturing into a pharmacy career, her deep-rooted connection to agriculture guided her back to the ranching life, a decision influenced by her family's support and the joy derived from sharing her agricultural experiences online.
Transition from Pharmacy to Agriculture
Discover the pivotal moments that led Natalie to transition from a pharmacist to embracing the agricultural lifestyle fully.
She shares her contentment in her pharmacy career but expresses a deeper fulfillment found in returning to her roots and sharing her journey online, a venture that she believes was a divine arrangement.
Elevate Ag Initiative
Delve into the inception of the Elevate Ag initiative, a venture born from the desire to help others in the agricultural space share their stories effectively.
Natalie and her partner Tara, both having left their professional careers, found a way to not only advocate for the agricultural industry but also monetize their efforts, creating a significant impact on their families and operations.
Discover Ag Podcast and Upcoming Docuseries
Gain insights into the Discover Ag podcast's growth, where Natalie finds joy in connecting with other podcasters and sharing in a space that is quickly becoming her favorite.
Get a sneak peek into the upcoming docuseries that promises to showcase unique agricultural stories, including a fascinating sheep trail experience in Montana, offering a fresh perspective on how products like wool are sourced.
Interview with podcaster, community builder and cattle rancher: Natalie Kovarik
00:00 - 2:50 | Introduction and Background
In the initial segment of the podcast Chris, warmly welcomes Natalie to the "Rural Entrepreneur Podcast." Chris shares how he discovered Natalie on LinkedIn, where she was educating people about agriculture and working alongside her co-host Tara Vander Dussen to secure a panel discussion at South by Southwest to discuss agriculture.
Natalie shares her background, mentioning that she was born into a fourth-generation cattle ranching family in southwest Montana. Despite her deep-rooted connection to agriculture, her parents allowed her the freedom to choose her own path, which initially led her to a career in pharmacy.
Natalie recounts her contentment with her life as a pharmacist in a relatively large city in Montana, where she remained close to her family ranch. However, she reflects on the unexpected yet fulfilling journey back to her agricultural roots, a path she believes was guided by a higher power.
She shares her happiness in returning to the ranching lifestyle, a journey enriched by her experiences sharing her life and family's story online, a venture she embarked upon after moving to central Nebraska with her husband.
This segment sets the stage for a deeper exploration of Natalie's journey, highlighting her strong background in agriculture and her diverse career path.
05:22 - 10:04 | Life as a Rural Entrepreneur and Podcaster
In this segment Chris and Natalie discuss her journey as a rural entrepreneur and the inception and evolution of her podcast, "Discover Ag."
Chris expresses hope that young listeners will be inspired by Natalie and her partner Tara's endeavors in agriculture, emphasizing the need for more people to start farms and appreciate the rewarding lifestyle and business opportunities it offers.
He then asks Natalie to share the story behind her podcast (check all episodes out here) and how they choose topics for their episodes.
Natalie recounts how she and Tara, both of whom had been sharing their experiences as women in production agriculture online for several years, met and formed a friendship. They initially collaborated on Elevate Ag a business aimed at teaching people in the farming or ranching space how to share online.
They launched a podcast under the same name as a free resource for their community. However, they soon realized that while they were experts in online sharing, it wasn't a topic they wanted to discuss weekly for an extended period.
This realization led them to rebrand their podcast to Discover Ag, where they now discuss trending headlines and mainstream media topics related to agriculture, offering their perspectives on them.
Natalie emphasizes the importance of being genuinely passionate and interested in the podcast topics, as it involves deep and continuous exploration. She appreciates the podcasting medium and is glad they found their "sweet spot" in discussing agriculture-related issues.
Chris appreciates the podcast's format, which includes personal experiences, discussions on various topics, and a friendly banter between the hosts.
The conversation showcases Natalie's journey of following her gut, being brave, and finding a fulfilling path in podcasting with a focus on agriculture.
10:04 - 13:25 | Creating the Elevate Ag Community
In this segment we learn more about Elevate Ag, especially in the context of promoting sustainable agriculture and better farming practices to enhance soil and water quality.
Natalie delves into the inception and mission of Elevate Ag. She shares that the initiative was born out of a recognized need within the agricultural community for guidance on how to effectively share their stories and advocate for the industry.
Natalie and her colleague Tara, both having backgrounds in different professional fields (environmental science and pharmacy), found success in sharing their agricultural stories online, not only advocating for the industry but also monetizing their efforts.
Natalie explains that Elevate Ag offers an online course that guides individuals on how to share their agricultural stories effectively, bridging the gap between urban and rural communities and potentially deriving income or other forms of return on investment from this endeavor.
The initiative also includes a free Facebook community, aiming to foster connections among rural entrepreneurs and small business owners in the agricultural sector, providing a space for them to ask questions and build relationships to advance the industry collectively.
Natalie emphasizes the vital role of community in supporting rural businesses, especially given the limited access to resources and networking opportunities that one might find in larger cities.
She believes in the power of community to facilitate learning and growth, helping individuals navigate the challenges of rural entrepreneurship and promoting a collaborative approach to furthering the agricultural industry.
This segment highlights Elevate Ag initiative's efforts to empower individuals in the agricultural sector to share their stories and foster a supportive community for rural entrepreneurs.
13:25 - 26:06 | Challenges, Misconceptions & Importance of the Agriculutural Industry
Chris and Natalie discuss various aspects of Natalie's life and the agricultural industry, touching upon her family's cattle company, the significance of agriculture in the economy, and the prevailing misconceptions about the industry.
Natalie shares the story behind her last name, which has Czech origins, and delves into the details of her family's cattle company, Kovarik Cattle Co. She mentions that they are technically a first-generation ranch, with her husband being extremely passionate about the cattle industry from a young age.
The company focuses mainly on a cow-calf operation and is working towards building a registered herd, which involves breeding cattle for their genetics to sell to other farms and ranches.
The conversation shifts to the broader agricultural industry, with Natalie emphasizing the substantial economic impact of agriculture, not only in terms of food production but also in the creation of numerous by-products used in daily life.
She highlights the essential role of agriculture in the Nebraska state economy, where one in four jobs is dependent on the industry.
Addressing the prevalent misconceptions about the agricultural industry, particularly regarding its environmental impact, Natalie asserts that farmers and ranchers genuinely care for their land and animals.
She argues that maintaining high standards of animal welfare and land conservation is not only a moral responsibility but also vital for the sustainability of their businesses.
Natalie expresses her frustration with the "carbon tunnel vision" that often dominates discussions on agriculture's environmental impact, urging for a more nuanced understanding that recognizes the positive contributions of the industry, including the benefits of grazing animals in maintaining ecosystems.
Towards the end of the segment, both Chris and Natalie express optimism that the narrative around agriculture is slowly changing, with urban centers beginning to reconnect and foster a better understanding of the industry.
They hope for a future where the conversation moves beyond carbon emissions to appreciate the multifaceted role and benefits of agriculture in society.
26:06 - 29:42 | Community Is Alive and Kicking!
Natalie and Chris discuss the evolving nature of community dynamics in rural areas, particularly in the context of agriculture.
Chris brings up the topic of rural entrepreneurship and the changing dynamics of community interactions in rural areas. He mentions that while the physical proximity between neighbors has increased due to the expansion of land management and leasing, the essence of community building and support systems remains vital.
He asks Natalie to share her perspective on how community interactions have evolved over time, balancing both the changes and the continuities in rural neighborly relations.
Natalie responds with a sense of optimism, noting that in her experience, especially in rural Nebraska, the spirit of community and neighborly support is still very much alive. She shares anecdotes from her own life to illustrate the close-knit relationships that characterize her community.
Natalie mentions how neighbors still help each other with tasks such as moving cattle and sharing equipment, often based on a system of mutual trust and reciprocal help rather than formal agreements.
She appreciates the informal and personal nature of these arrangements, which stand in contrast to the more structured and contractual relationships that might be found in other industries.
Natalie highlights the essential role of community support in agriculture, where certain operations inherently require collective effort. She gives examples of activities like branding and weaning calves, where neighbors spontaneously come together to assist each other, fostering a culture of mutual aid and cooperation.
Natalie also touches upon the personal connections that make her community feel like a close-knit family, including the informal childcare arrangements with her neighbor. She expresses a deep affection for her community, appreciating the sense of togetherness and the readiness to help each other that defines it.
Overall, Natalie portrays a hopeful picture of rural communities, suggesting that despite the changes over time, the core values of mutual aid, trust, and community solidarity continue to thrive, fostering a warm and supportive environment.
29:42 - 34:57 | Looking Ahead and Advice for Fellow Entrepreneurs
What's the future look like for Natalie and what advice does she have discuss the future of for aspiring rural entrepreneurs, especially those looking to start their own farm?
Natalie shares her belief in the potential of podcasting as a medium to facilitate deep and nuanced conversations about agriculture, emphasizing that the complexity of the industry cannot be captured in short social media posts.
She reveals that she and her partner Tara are working on a docuseries that will visually complement their podcast by showcasing unique agricultural practices across different farms and ranches.
They aim to focus on lesser-known aspects of agriculture, such as a sheep trail in Montana, to give viewers a fresh perspective on how food and fibers are produced.
Natalie expresses hope that their docuseries might one day be picked up by a network, but she is content with continuing her podcast and appreciates the support she receives.
Towards the end of the conversation, Chris asks Natalie for advice she would give to a young couple eager but nervous about starting their own farm.
Natalie acknowledges the difficulty of the question and shares that she is working on a keynote speech centered around bravery in business and life. She encourages aspiring entrepreneurs to take the plunge and start their journey, assuring them that clarity often emerges through action.
Natalie underscores the importance of trusting one's gut intuition, which she believes is a cornerstone of successful entrepreneurship. She advises individuals to cultivate confidence and learn to rely on their intuition to navigate the challenges and external pressures they might face in their entrepreneurial journey.
About Natalie Kovarik
Natalie Kovarik is a force to reckon with in the agricultural sector. Based in Central Nebraska, she, along with her husband, owns and operates the Kovarik Cattle Co, a venture that stands testimony to her deep connection with the agricultural world.
But her contributions do not end here; she is also the co-host, along with Tara Vander Dussen, of the popular podcast Discover Ag, a platform where stories from the agricultural world come to life, fostering understanding and bridging gaps.
Natalie, and Tara, are also the brains and energy behind Elevate Ag, an online course and community that empowers producers with the necessary tools to advocate and share effectively online.
Over the past three years, she has taken to online platforms to share her ranching and family story, showcasing the beauty of the western lifestyle and fostering a community grounded in trust and appreciation for agriculture.
Through her multifaceted endeavors, Natalie Kovarik is not just sharing a story; she is building a legacy, nurturing a community, and paving the way for a future grounded in understanding, trust, and mutual respect in the agricultural sector.
About the Rural Entrepreneur Podcast Series
The Rural Entrepreneur Podcast Series delves into the stories of rural entrepreneurs, exploring their struggles, triumphs, and the driving force behind their perseverance. The conversations are profound and insightful. If you're interested in being a sponsor or guest, feel free to contact us or book some time with Chris.