Conrad is a Montana town of 2,500 in an area known as the “Golden Triangle” for its vast fields of wheat. Sixty miles from the Canadian border, Conrad is where the Great Plains meet the Rocky Mountains.
It’s a place where everyone stops what they’re doing at harvest time to do whatever it takes to bring in the grain crops that fuel the local economy.
“We have one stop light, no McDonald’s and one elevator in the entire town,” Vanessa Bucklin said.
In an era where small towns such as Conrad are seeing their young people strike out for big cities and never return, Bucklin did things differently. She spent her teen years dreaming of leaving Conrad for Las Vegas. But after she moved, she realized she missed Conrad and she focused on getting the kind of business experience that would help her return there and be successful.
Bucklin, 41, founded Pondera County Insurance in 2013, and qualified for Million Dollar Round Table membership her first year in business.
She is the descendant of homesteaders, with her family the fifth generation to live on the farm that grows wheat, barley and hay.
She is also the second generation of her family to serve the community’s insurance needs. Her grandfather, Bob Emrick, was a State Farm Insurance agent in Conrad from the post-World War II years until his death a year before Bucklin was born.
“I still have the rolltop desk that he used to write insurance policies on,” Bucklin said. “He served the people in the community and now I have some of those same people coming in to my office. Some of them tell me he sold them their very first insurance policy when they were young. Now I am continuing that promise.”