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Ex-Montana State rodeo bulldogger Nate Eggena shining light on mental health

Nathan Eggena
Posted at 8:01 PM, Jun 01, 2023

BOZEMAN — It was a celebration that encapsulated Montana State fans, but from a cowboy not very well known.

On the first night of Montana State’s annual spring rodeo in April, the crowd erupted as Nate Eggena yelled and pointed to the sky after bringing down his steer.

While Bobcats fans were just excited to see a cowboy in the Blue and Gold have a good run, for Eggena this was more than just a victory.

“It was just like a thousand bricks came crashing off my shoulders,” Eggena smiled.

When Eggena stepped on Montana State’s campus three years ago, rodeo was never in the forefront of his mind.

However, that was of course though until this past winter.

“I had an agriculture marketing class with a buddy named Hayden Taylor,” he explained. "He's on the rodeo team as well and we just got to talking about it and he's like you you know what, you look like a bulldog, you should bulldog.”

Despite having no prior rodeo experience other than helping run the family farm, Nate’s never been one to back away from a challenge.

The senior met with Bobcat rodeo head coach Kyle Whitaker shortly after, officially earning a spot on the team this past January.

“Rodeo was so new to me,” Eggena stated. “I had to learn so many things, just like even riding the horse the right way… It was just an opportunity of a lifetime and putting on that blue and gold vest is something I will always cherish.”

While it was a short-lived rodeo career, one highlighted by a win in Miles City, Eggena’s drive and purpose finds himself back in Iowa working on the family farm and creating content.

From thousands to millions of views, the former Bobcat is using social media to give consumers a glimpse of his everyday life.

“I think bridging that gap between the consumer and the producer is so key to having just everybody work in unison because I mean everybody needs food, right? And so having people understand where the food comes from is so vitally important.”

Yet even Eggena knows social media can be somewhat of a "highlight reel" only showing the good, which is why he’s also choosing to shed light on mental health in agriculture – a cause that hits very close to home.

“I grew up with my dad farming alongside my dad until I was 13 and he became very sick with depression and anxiety,” Eggena paused. “A lot of people don't really get it, but you know, your brain is an organ too, just like anything else. And so they call it mental illness for a reason ... My dad, he took his life back in 2015 and it was extremely hard for us.”

Even though farm and ranch families make up less than two percent of the U.S. population, studies show that suicide rates are significantly higher in the agriculture industry.

“Farming can be great at times,” Eggena stated. “It can be so successful. It can be very lucrative, but at the same time, there are some years that you could have a drought, you could have flooding, and it doesn't go as well, right? Farmers also are isolated within their occupation, and so mental health is just extremely important in agriculture.”

The former steer wrestler shared that his father was the hardest worker he ever knew, and even though life will never be the same without him, Eggena Farms will stay rooted in continuing his legacy.

“Every day I'm just trying to make my dad happy,” Eggena smiled. “I think my dad's smiling down at us – at me and my family – and I'm very thankful for that. I know he's in a better place.”

If you or someone you know is dealing with mental health issues, please contact:

  • Farm Aid Hotline, 800-FARM-AID (327-6243) Monday-Friday 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. MT
  • 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline (24/7)