The South Dakota Agricultural and Rural Leadership Foundation “Graduate Experience” program recently conducted a two-week cultural and agricultural study tour of Scotland and Ireland. The self-funded tour included 33 individuals: 16 graduates of the SDARL flagship leadership program, spouses, and staff members.

     During the trip, the group received briefings and tours from Ireland’s Minister of State, Andrew Doyle, officials of the Ireland Department of Agriculture, the Irish Farming Association, Alltech Bioscience, and Daktronics Corporation. They discussed details about the agriculture industry in Ireland, and efforts to meet environmental standards set by the European Union, as well as efforts to compete as global businesses.

Additional tours included visits to feedlots, a dairy farm, and several agricultural-related processing and agri-tourism companies. The group also was able to compare and contrast cultural similarities between Ireland, Northern Ireland, and Scotland.

“SDARL graduates recognize the need to be lifelong learners,” said CEO Don Norton. “These international study tours allow our leaders to spend their ‘vacation time’ enjoying agricultural, economic development, and cultural sites in foreign countries. It’s rewarding to see graduates pay their own way on these fun and knowledge-filled ventures.”

In addition to farm and corporate visits, group members attending a hurling competition, visited famous countryside tourist sites, and learned of the historical conflict in Northern Ireland through guided tours of memorials and landmarks.

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


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