Members of Class X of the South Dakota Agricultural and Rural Leadership Program (SDARL) began their leadership learning journey by exploring their strengths, meeting the SDARL Board of Directors, and hearing from newly-elected Congressman Dusty Johnson. The Leadership Orientation Seminar was held November 9-10, in Mitchell. During the seminar, class members were joined by their spouses/partners for self-introductions and team building.
“I was asked to apply for the state FSA committee, and I was appointed by the White House and (U.S. Secretary of Agriculture) Sonny Perdue, which is huge, and that wouldn’t have happened without SDARL.”
“I have been through a few leadership classes/seminars in my career. While almost every one provided some nugget of knowledge that could be added to my leadership portfolio, SDARL seems to be putting nugget after nugget on the table and challenging me to pick them up. I appreciate the fact that this is not about reading/writing about leadership, but more about engaging leaders, learning from them and actually practicing some of the skills that successful leaders possess.”
Our alumni are the most dedicated servant leaders in the state. Hear them talk about their SDARL experience.
You can apply NOW for our next leadership class. Class XI begins in November 2020. Applications will only be accepted for a short time.
Veteran journalist Connie Sieh Groop, a graduate of SDARL Class VI, has written several articles about staying positive in times of COVID-19. Here is one …
Understanding the culture and agriculture of two emerging U.S. trade partners brought the 10th class of the South Dakota Agricultural and Rural Leadership Foundation (SDARL) …
The 10th seminar of Class X of the South Dakota Agricultural and Rural Leadership (SDARL) provided an in-depth look at Biofuels, Rural Health Care, and …
Lora Berg, Brookings, is the Director of Marketing and Communications for the South Dakota State University College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences. She grew up on a diversified livestock and grain farm near Hurley, S.D., and participated in the family business raising purebred Berkshire hogs, Polled Hereford cattle, Suffolk sheep, corn and soybeans. Lora has spent her entire career in agricultural communications. Prior to returning to SDSU, she served as the Editor, Managing Editor, Associate Editor and Digital Editor of National Hog Farmer magazine, with additional responsibility for overseeing the magazine’s online presence and 29 electronic newsletters per month. She also provided editorial content for BEEF, Hay & Forage Grower and Farm Industry News magazines. In addition to being a co-advisor for the SDSU Little International, Lora serves as an advisor for the SDSU Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow Club and Sigma Alpha Sorority. She is an emeritus University of Minnesota Master Gardener and former 4-H leader. Lora has a Bachelor of Science degree in Agricultural Journalism and Master of Science degree in Journalism and Mass Communications from SDSU.
Jace Booth, Timber Lake, is the Ranch Manager at Booth Inc. He joins his family as a 5th generation rancher who raises Black Angus and F1 Baldy cattle. He is currently in his first year as a horse breeder, carrying on his Grandpa Dave Ganje’s horse operation that was started in 1964. Jace attended one year at South Dakota State University before returning home to do his part in helping run a successful family ranch operation. He has been an active member of the Timber Lake Rodeo Association and has served on the board as a director for the past two years. Jace enjoys spending time roping, participating in ranch rodeos, traveling, and spending time with his wife, Becky, and daughter, Jalee.
Jay Esser, Redfield, is a co-owner/operator of Esser Farms, Inc. He operates a family farm that has been in operation since 1932. The farm started out growing crops, a cow/calf operation and some hogs. The operation has progressed and changed over the years to finishing cattle while continuing to raise crops. Jay graduated from University of South Dakota School of Business with an emphasis in Economics. At USD he was active in the Greek community. He was president of the Beta Theta Pi Fraternity and held an office on the Panhellenic committee. Since returning to the farm, he has served for 10 years on the Redfield School Board, the advisory committee for North Central Farmers Elevator and is a member of the Board of Directors for Redfield Energy. Jay has been married to Deb for 28 years and they have four daughters. He enjoys hunting, fishing and spending time with his children.
Tom Fishback, Brookings, is a Senior Trust Officer at First Bank & Trust in Brookings (FBTB). He also is in charge of FBTB’s Private Banking department. Fishback grew up in Brookings and has been working at the bank since 2007. His background in agriculture began with developing a great appreciation for South Dakota’s farmers and ranchers at a young age while going on farm visits with his father, also a banker, as a child. Prior to becoming a Trust Officer, Fishback served as a Credit Review Officer where he was involved in analyzing farming and ranching credits. Now, he manages farm land in the bank’s Wealth Management Services department.
After joining First Bank & Trust, he earned a master’s degree in economics from SDSU, graduated from the Graduate School of Banking at Colorado, and passed the Certified Trust and Financial Advisor exam following completion of the Cannon Trust School with honors.
Fishback invests time and energy in a range of organizational efforts, which strengthen and enrich the Brookings area. He is the founder of the $10 Lunch Club, and serves on the Brookings Reconciliation Council, Wokini Leadership Council, SDSU Tiospaye Council, and SDSU Honors College Advisory Council. He spends his free time with his wife, Mary Beth, and 15 month old daughter, Mae. They enjoy traveling, reading, playing in the yard, and spending time with family.
Elli Haerter, Hosmer, is the North Dakota and South Dakota Activities Manager for the Bush Foundation. Elli’s work with rural communities began when she served as the Tribal Liaison and Staff Assistant to U.S. Senator Tim Johnson and continues in her current role in philanthropy. Elli and her husband Joe moved back to Hosmer in 2012 after starting their careers in Rapid City, so that Joe could work for the family businesses of banking and cattle ranching. Soon after arriving in Hosmer, Elli joined the Edmunds Central School Board, and currently serves as its Chairperson. She also teachers Sunday School at St. John’s Lutheran Church. In her spare time, Elli especially loves walleye fishing with Joe and their two children on the Missouri River. Elli has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and German from South Dakota State University. After college she spent a year abroad as a Fulbright Scholar in Germany, studying the economic development strategies in Saxony while attending the Techniche Universitaet – Dresden.
Bob Metz, Peever, is owner and manager of Metz Farms Inc. Bob, along with his wife Karen, are 5th generation farmers. They farm with their two sons Justin and Josh, and son-in-law Steve. Together, they produce 6,000 acres of corn and soybeans. Their son Tom farms in North Dakota. Bob is a graduate of Granite Falls Tech College in Industrial Hydrolics. Bob is a lifetime member of the American Soybean Association where he has served as President. He is a founding member of International Soybean Growers Alliance (ISGA) and the US Soybean Export Council and served as President of the National Biodiesel Board. Currently he is serving as President of Northern Growers Ethanol, a board member for the SD Soybean Council and is Lector and member of St. Anthony Church. During his leisure time, Bob enjoys flying his airplanes, traveling in the USA and Internationally plus spending time at the lake with family and friends.
Christopher Kassube, Bath SD, grew up helping on a cattle ranch and a large feedlot, eventually moving into sales in his position as an Agronomy Sales Specialist with Hefty Seed. He grew up and graduated high school in Ortonville, MN, and has lived in the Bath, South Dakota area with his family for 8 years. Together with his wife, they own CNK Riverside whitetails, raising deer for other farms and meat production. Chris had a 6 year career with the National Guard, finishing with the rank of Sargent. In his leisure time, he has been involved with farm safety classes for children, and served on the town council when living in Stratford. Hunting and fishing consume most of his spare time – anything to do with the outdoors! He and his wife have been married for almost 18 years and have 4 children.
Heidi Zwinger, Colton, is the herd manager at Boadwine Farms where she has worked since 2001. Boadwine Farms is a 3000 cow dairy near Baltic, SD. The Holstein herd has a strong genetic base, selecting for healthy, high component producing cows. Approximately 2,500 acres of corn, alfalfa, forage sorghum, and rye grass are grown and harvested as forages for the dairy. Heidi stays busy volunteering as a 4-H club leader and serves as Vice President of the Minnehaha County 4-H Leaders Association. Heidi lives with her husband, Mark, and son Brody. Her favorite family activities include exhibiting her own registered Holsteins at county and state fairs, 4-H and FFA activities, reading, and spending time with family and friends.
Don Nickelson, Frederick, Along with his wife and 3 young boys own and operate Nickelson Farms Inc. a 2000 acre Grain and 250 head Cow/calf Operation. Placing an emphasis on improving soil health through crop diversity and livestock integration, which includes no-till, strip-till, cover crops, and rotational grazing. Don received his Associates degree in Animal Science from the University of Minnesota, Crookston where he also played college football. Don currently is a board member of The Frederick High School Alumni Association, member of the Frederick Community Club, SD Soil Health Coalition, and volunteer youth sports coach. He enjoys playing city league basketball, golf, cross fit activities like mud runs, and spending family time at the lake relaxing, boating and skiing.
Garrett Masat, Tulare is a diversified agriculture producer that farms and ranches with his family in the Jim river valley. He is in business with his father and brother operating their permitted feedlot which includes background cattle, finishing, develop heifers and running cow/calf. Garrett is also very active in their grain operation that grows corn, soybeans, wheat, and alfalfa. He enjoys watching college basketball in the spring and hunting pheasants and big game in the fall. Garrett is a graduate from Lake Area Technical Institute with an associate’s degree in agricultural production.
Grant Harms, Sioux Falls, is a Territory Manager in Southeast, South Dakota for Corteva Agriscience, and has been working in agricultural chemical sales for four years. Growing up in Crete, Nebraska, he was introduced to agriculture by his grandfather, Roger Harms, on the family farm in Kenesaw, Nebraska. Grant followed his father, Phil Harms, into agribusiness after witnessing a career that has spanned 30 years and counting. Graduating with a Biology degree cum laude from Doane University in 2014, Grant then began his career with Dow AgroSciences. Today, he and his wife, Brooke (Burianek) Harms, reside in Sioux Falls. Grant specializes in providing pest control solutions for suppliers and consumers in Southeast, South Dakota. In his current role, he works to develop herbicide programs that focus on corn, soybean, wheat, alfalfa, and other South Dakota staple crop acres. Recently, Grant was nominated to the South Dakota Agri-Business Association board of directors where he works with others in the ag industry to facilitate a unified voice for the promotion of environmental stewardship and educational information for South Dakota’s agriculture industry. In his free time, you may find him fishing, hunting, playing basketball, enjoying the outdoors, or spending time with his wife, family, and friends.
Heather Niederwerder, New Underwood, is an Insurance Officer with Farm Credit Services. She grew up learning about farming, ranching and dairy cattle from her father, and about the hay grinding business from her grandfather. She and her husband, Marty, operated a small cow/calf operation, then moved into helping family and friends with their operations through trucking and financial services. She has been assisting producers with risk management products such as crop insurance, livestock insurance and rainfall coverage, and is passionate about ensuring producers have the best options to keep their operation viable in the volatile conditions they face. A graduate of New Underwood High School, she is active in the Black Hills Stock SHow Ranch Rodeo as a volunteer, and with 4-H and youth basketball.
Jackson Waage, Brookings, is a farm marketing consultant for Hurley and Associates. He works with farmers to tailor individualized market plans specific to their farm. Jackson grew on his family’s Corn and Soybean farm near Houghton, SD. He returns to the farm today to help his Uncle during harvest. Jackson is a graduate of SDSU with a major in Ag Economics and a minor in Ag Marketing. When Jackson was asked how he will utilize the leadership knowledge gained from SDARL, his response is “it is clear that this program is designed to not only teach adults how to be better leaders, but to take that knowledge and use it to better the people who surround me in my everyday life. Graduating from the SDARL program is not just for me, but it is for everyone I come in contact with and help to serve for the rest of my life.” Some extracurricular activities he enjoys are golfing, fishing, hunting and most any lake activities.
Jake Prins, Eden, is a Cattle Broker for Prins Cattle Company. Together with his father Brian Prins they raise Black Angus Cattle and have a cow/calf and backgrounding operation. When Jake is not ranching, he is buying/selling cattle for his customer clientele. Jake is also a real estate agent and works with customers to buy/sell land and homes. He attended SDSU and earned his degree in Entrepreneurial Studies. He is a Broker Associate with the South Dakota Real Estate Commission. When Jake was asked what impact SDARL has on agriculture in the last decade he responded “SDARL connects rural South Dakota with national and international perspectives. It has helped rural partners in South Dakota see that we are a part of a bigger picture. SDARL helps connect people in our state to others nationally and globally with similar interests and vocations”. During his free time, Jake enjoys the opportunity to do some hunting and fishing.
Jennifer Smith Hoesing, Sioux Falls, is the Chief Development Officer for EmBe. She is a member of Sioux Falls Downtown Rotary and the Minnehaha County Historical Society board of directors. She is a native of Marcus, Iowa. During her past time, she enjoys playing piano, clarinet and ukulele; riding bicycles with her husband and two young sons; and traveling. She holds a Master of Arts in Arts Administration from the Florida State University College of Music, and a Bachelor of Arts in Music from Luther College in Decorah, Iowa.
Jared Questad, Baltic, is a feedlot owner, farmer and Pioneer Seed salesman. Jared graduated from Lake Area Technical Institute in Watertown, SD, with an associate’s degree in Ag Business. Jared feeds 800 head of cattle; grows corn and soybeans. He is the third generation Pioneer Salesman in his family. Jared is the current president of the Sioux Basin Cattlemen’s Association and is actively involved with the Minnehaha Farm Bureau. In his spare time, Jared enjoys being with his family and friends.
Lorrin Naasz, Pierre, is the Digital Content Manager for the South Dakota Department of Agriculture. She grew up on Hellmann’s Quiet Creek Ranch, her family’s centennial cow-calf operation encompassing 11,000 acres in South Dakota and Nebraska. Her great-great grandfather’s ranching legacy continues to drive her. A life-long learner and leader, she enjoys attending her husband’s coaching events and going home to the ranch. Lorrin graduated from Black Hills State University in 2015, with a bachelor’s degree in Corporate Communications. She is currently pursuing her master’s in Strategic Leadership. Lorrin is married to Nathan Naasz, a teacher and coach for the Pierre School District.
Justin Ingalls, Watertown, is the Sales, Agronomy and Marketing Lead for Legend Seeds, Inc. Legend Seeds is a fiercely independent, regional seed company headquartered in De Smet. As the largest independent seed company in their midwestern footprint, Legend Seeds specializes in providing a locally proven portfolio of seed for your Midwestern acre. Justin is proud to have joined Legend Seeds three years ago and excited to be back home after twenty plus years working for multi-national companies in ag business. A native of Bryant, he and his family manage their 3rd generation corn, soybean and forage farm in Hamlin County. He actively contributes to FFA, 4-H and his local church youth groups. Justin attended Southwest State University, majoring in Business Administration and Education. He is an active college sports official, officiating football and basketball games in more than thirty eight states and in three countries. He cherishes his time, especially on bikes and outdoors with his wife Lynnette (Lynnie), their five daughters, one son and seven grandchildren
Krysti Mikkonen is from Frederick SD. She has owned and operated a digital marketing business since 2005 first as a WSI franchise and currently as Rural Gold Marketing helping businesses find their gold in marketing, websites, SEO & coaching. In addition, she is marketing coordinator for Eide Bailly, a CPA and business advisory firm. A graduate of Northern State University, Krysti is inspired by entreprenuership, creative marketing and rural economic development. An active community member and volunteer, she’s involved in a number of organizations in the Frederick & Aberdeen region. Krysti Mikkonen and her husband, Lonny operate Mikkonen Organic Farm with his brother Rory where they raised four children, two of which have come back to continue the tradition on this 4th generation farm.
Lance Larsen, Groton, is a Precision Service Coordinator at the Innovation Center a division of Agtegra Cooperative. Where he strives to help growers better their operations by being more efficient and profitable. Lance was a member of 4-H and FFA growing up, which sparked his passion for Agriculture. Lance purchased his first parcel of farmland after graduation at Groton High School where he focused on Corn, Soybeans, and Sunflowers. He also had a farrow to finish hog operation. Lance graduated from Lake Area Technical Institute with a degree in Diesel Technology. He has served on the Farm Bureau Young Farmers & Ranchers Committee. He currently sits on his local township board where he has held multiple positions. When not at work Lance enjoys fishing, mowing the lawn, and just being outside.
Lee Friesen, Olivet, is Special Products Sales Manager and National Marketing Lead for Production Cost Insurance with Diversified Crop Insurance Services. Lee grew up in a small rural South Dakota town with a population of around 750. During his youth, he was very active in the FFA, including serving as state FFA Vice President. FFA had a strong influence on his desire to be involved with agriculture for a lifetime. During college, Lee worked with the South Dakota and National Pork Producers. After obtaining a Bachelor’s Degree in Education from South Dakota State University, Lee worked as an Agriculture Education Instructor. He spent 13 years in the classroom and online with varying forms of digital education. While teaching, Lee also earned his Master’s Degree in Information Systems from Dakota State University.
Lee has since been involved in business working with licensed products with companies such as John Deere, AGCO, Case IH, and more. He has experience with business consulting, product development, and advertising/marketing. Lee began his crop insurance career as an adjuster and later moved into the role of South Dakota Field Marketing Representative where he assisted with training and education within a five state region. In May of 2016, he was promoted to lead the Production Cost Insurance program with DCIS.
Lee and his family live on a small farm in rural Olivet, South Dakota where he raises alfalfa, corn, soybeans, cattle and sheep. Lee enjoys spending time with his kids and enjoys a hobby of collecting farm toys.
Matt Lindgren, is Vice President of Related Services for Farm Credit Services of America, in Watertown. Matt Grew up on a 400 acre wildlife farm, established to develop habitat from deer and pheasants. He continues to be involved in the management and development of this property. Matt has his Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from the University of Sioux Falls. His Past activities include being involved in Junior Achievement and Kids Hope Mentoring program. Currently he serves on the finance committee at Cornerstone United Methodist Church. During his past time, Matt enjoys Archery Hunting, attending sporting events and spending time with his wife, Molly, and their children
ReEtta Sieh, Leola, is the owner/operator of Rott Sieh Farm. She’s the 3rd generation on the family farm where they raise corn, soybeans, peas, rye, oats and wheat, along with Angus X cattle. Before returning to the farm, she served as a teacher and coach. She is currently President of the Leola School board, serves on her church council, is on the NCSEC board, and is a delegate for the Agtegra Cooperative. She also helps with the summer baseball program in her town. She enjoys spending leisure time with her family and friends, which usually involves grilling and fishing.
Ryan Vanden Berge, Oacoma, is a Senior Farm Loan Officer for the U.S. Department of Agriculture – Farm Service Agency. He has worked for FSA for the past ten years and currently works at the Brule/Buffalo County FSA office in Chamberlain, SD. He grew up on the family farm located west of Corsica, SD. He spent his youth working on the family’s diversified farming operation consisting of cattle, sheep, grain and hay. Ryan attended and graduated from Dakota State University in Madison, SD. He double majored in Business Management and Finance. He is still actively involved in the family farm, VB Inc., and also operates a cow/calf operation, Next Gen. LLC, with his siblings and cousins. In his free time, Ryan enjoys golfing, reading and running.
Shane Samuel (Sam) Olson, Buffalo, owns Buffalo Hardware and Buffalo Ranch Supply. A passionate promoter of his local community, both stores cater to the agricultural industry. Buffalo Ranch Supply provides bulk and bagged feed, vaccine and animal health products, chemical, and bulk crop seed. Buffalo Hardware is a full service lumber yard and hardware store, but also has an expansive inventory in livestock products, such as continuous fence, gates, panels, fencing materials, super steel, guard rail, water tanks, and more. Sam earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Entrepreneurship from Black Hills State University, where he was Rodeo Team President. He also has served as the Great Plains Regional Director for the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association. Sam is the Vice President of the Harding County Chamber of Commerce, a Director at Olson Livestock Foundation, and member of the Harding County Activities Club. In his spare time, he enjoys rodeo (steer wrestling) and golf.
Scott Simpson, Pierre, is the Administrative Resources Chief for the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks. Scott oversees several statewide programs including licensing and education, and serves as one of the Department lobbyists during the legislative session. Scott and his wife Linette have recently purchased the family farm in Perkins County and this opportunity allows them to combine their passion for agriculture and conservation. Away from work Scott is an avid hunter, angler and golfer and enjoys sharing these activities with their three children. Scott received his BS in Business Management from the University of Sioux Falls and was selected for the first cohort of the State of South Dakota’s Leadership Development Program in 2005.
Tanse Herrmann, Whitewood, is the district conservationist for USDA-NRCS serving Elk Creek Conservation District (southern Meade County) at Sturgis. Tanse assists ranchers, farmers, forest owners, and other private landowners in addressing natural resource concerns from wind erosion & wildlife habitat to undesirable plant productivity & organic matter depletion. In accordance with the NRCS mission: I “help people help the land” by offering resource concern treatment alternatives, technical assistance, and sometimes financial assistance to accomplish conservation objectives.Tanse and his wife, Tonya, own and operate The Hay Shed, an operation that produces hay from 88 acres and or purchases and markets premium hay and straw in small & large bales catering to the horse-owner community throughout the Black Hills and beyond. Tanse and Tonya also own six head of performance horses. As their children ages 9 and 6 progress in 4-H, they hope to expand their livestock projects. Tanse is a graduate of SDSU in Ag Education. He is the past president of SD Society of Range Management, SD FFA Association and former State FFA Student Advisor. He currently on the Pulpit selection committee for the Foothills Community Church. During his leisure time he enjoys team roping, fishing, hunting, and shooting firearm activities that he can enjoy with his family.
Tyler Urban, Lennox, is a Crop Insurance Specialist for First Crop Solutions, a division of First National Bank in Sioux Falls. Tyler co owns the family farm with his parents Rod and Deb Urban. They farm 900 acres in Minnehaha and Lincoln Counties where he raises corn, soybeans, alfalfa hay and have a cow calf operation. He primarily oversees the grain marketing and purchasing inputs. He attended South Dakota State University and graduated with his Animal Science degree. Currently, Tyler currently serves as the Sioux Empire Livestock show Chairman. He is a member of the Sioux Falls Chamber of Commerce Ag Division which sponsors the Annual Ag Appreciation Day at the Sioux Empire Fair, assists with the Sioux Empire Farm Show and sponsors the Agri-Business Citizen of the Year and Farm Family of the Year Awards. Tyler credits his high school FFA for helping to shape who he is today. During his free time you might find Tyler attending sprint car racing events across the region, Twins Baseball games or spending time with family and friends showcasing his passion for grilling.