Class X of the South Dakota Agricultural and Rural Leadership (SDARL) Program took to the road to explore rural/urban partnerships in economic development and global agriculture during a seminar held July 16-18, 2019. The seminar allowed class members to increase their understanding of agriculture, rural development, and agricultural processing within South Dakota.

The seminar began with a briefing, lunch, and panel discussion highlighting the recent growth and experiences of immigrant populations in the Huron area.  Following the discussion, the class toured the Dakota Provisions Turkey Processing Plant.  Other stops throughout the day included a Rainfall Simulator demonstration by U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service employees, emphasizing the five principles of soil health. The day concluded with a discussion and field tour at Legend Seeds in DeSmet. Legend is the fourth largest independent seed company in the nation, founded 30 years ago by SDARL graduate Glen Davis.

Economic development and generational agriculture were the topics of day two, beginning with a visit to the Metz Farm in Peever, S.D. Class X member Bob Metz discussed maintaining a multigenerational farm for the future of his family, and shared details of a carefully planned and executed farm transition plan.  SDARL graduate Terry Jaspers spoke to the class about his community leadership involvement as Mayor of Sisseton, S.D.  Hannah Walkes, President of Pipestone System, a world-class sow management company with new sow barns onboarding in South Dakota, talked about expanding pork production facilities and investments in the state.

SDARL alum Mike Jaspers, East River Electric Business Development Director, met with class members in Madison, S.D. and provided an overview of rural electrification.  The class toured the East River Electric Operations Center to see the high-tech monitoring system for customer electrical services.

The second day of the seminar concluded with a presentation by Brian Knochenmus of Tru Shrimp Company. Class members received an overview of the research and design phase of a plan to build a shrimp breeding facility in Madison, S.D.

The final day of the seminar began at Boadwine Dairy near Baltic, S.D. Owner Lynn Boadwine gave a tour and demonstrated dairy technology, and discussed labor and herd management and genetics for the 10,000 cow operation.

The class visited R & S Honey Farms near Kimball, S.D., where owner Ryan Talbott talked about the 18,000 bee hives used to produce honey. He noted that the hives are rotated from a hibernation phase in November, then shipped to California almond groves for pollination in mid-January. Following that, the hives move on to Texas for breeding season before returning to South Dakota in May.

The July seminar concluded with a tour of the Platte Hutterite Colony.  This cultural tour provided background on the Hutterite colony lifestyle, their farming operations and pre-cast concrete construction and metal fabrication businesses.

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. 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. Learn more at www.sdagleadership.com.

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