Members of Class X of the South Dakota Agricultural and Rural Leadership (SDARL) Program improved their understanding of international trade, cooperatives, and agricultural processing during the International Perspectives Seminar held in Aberdeen, S.D. December 15-17.

Above: A deer poses for an extreme close-up picture during SDARL Class X’s visit to CNK Riverside Whitetail farm.

The seminar began with a tour of a domestic Deer Management Program, which is operated by class member Chris Kassube in Bath, S.D. While at the Kassube farm, the class learned about the customs and lifestyle of Vietnam from Karen and Bob Thaler. The Thalers spent five months in Vietnam as Bob conducted research as a Fulbright U.S. Scholar in 2018. Class X will be traveling to Vietnam and Cambodia as part of their International Study Seminar in 2020.

Above: Karen and Bob Thaler discuss living in Vietnam for five months in 2018 as part of a Fulbright U.S. research scholarship. Class X members will travel to Vietnam and Cambodia in 2020 to learn first-hand of the culture and agricultural importance of the emerging Asian trade partners.

During the second day of the Aberdeen seminar, SDARL CEO Don Norton discussed being an effective member of a board of directors, and Lance Stoeber, Plant Manager for AGP Processing in Aberdeen, discussed the new soybean production plant that opened there in July 2019.  Class members gave presentations on various aspects of their upcoming International Study Seminar, such as government, healthcare, education, transportation and essential travel information. Eight finalists completed the class public speaking training, which began in June, by presenting final speeches. SDARL alumni judges chose Krysti Mikkonen and Jennifer Hoesing as contest winners. At the end of the day, the class toured the Agtegra Shuttle Loading facility at Mellette and learned about efficiencies of handing grain for export.

The banquet in the evening of the second day featured guest speaker Reid Vander Veen, Director of Marketing for Hemp Processing Solutions. The company makes hemp processing equipment in South Dakota, even though the crop cannot be grown in the state legally.

Above, Agtegra CEO Chris Pearson speaks to SDARL Class X about the growth of the Agtegra Cooperative and the benefits of cooperative membership for farmers.

The final day of the seminar began with SDARL alumna Peggy Bieber talking about the importance of leaders to stay informed by reading local, state and regional media articles. Chris Pearson, Agtegra CEO, spoke to the class about the growth of the Agtegra Cooperative and benefits of the cooperative system. And Mike Schaefer, Agribusiness Financial Specialist with Eide Baily, talked about innovations in farm financial consulting. The day concluded with a visit to Agtegra’s Precision Ag Innovation Center. The next leadership seminar for Class X will be January 14-16, 2020 in the Sioux Falls area.

During the seminar, class member Heather Niederwerder was elected Class X President. She will serve as the focal point for her class and will serve on the SDARL Board of Directors beginning in June 2020.

The SDARL flagship program is a series of seminars over 18 months where competitively-selected class members learn the skills, knowledge and character of leaders for agriculture and rural communities in South Dakota. Applications are currently being accepted for Class XI of the program, which will begin in November 2020. Learn more at SDARL also offers leadership training to partner organizations through a “Leadership 2.0” series, and to graduates through SDARL “Graduate Experience” seminars. The SDARL Foundation, a 501 –c-3 corporation under South Dakota law, is the management and funding organization for the program and other leadership development efforts.


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