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 South Dakota’s Global Industry and Technology during a seminar held in Sioux Falls January 14-16.

The seminar began at POET’s world headquarters, where CEO Jeff Lautt welcomed the group with a discussion of leadership and risk taking. South Dakota Ag in the Classroom was the next topic, presented by Tim Olsen, Cindy Heidelberger Larson and Marsha Kucker from Ground Works-Midwest. In the afternoon, Class X was joined by 20 SDARL alumni for a briefing on biofuels.

Buck Yerdon, Director of Investor Relations, gave an overview of the processes and scope of POET’s impact on the industry; Vice President of Research and Development, Dave Bushong, was joined by Adam Wirt, General Manager of the main POET research facility, to talk about future technology breakthroughs at the company. Bushong is a member of the SDARL Board of Directors and Wirt is a graduate of SDARL Class V.

Kyle Gilley, POET Senior Vice President of External Affairs and Communication, briefed the class and alumni on policy issues affecting biofuels. He talked of POET’s efforts to position biofuels as a clean energy alternative for America’s future.

Alicia ElMamouni from POET’s corporate stewardship initiative “Seeds of Change” talked about how the firm is giving back on a global scale. Class members then toured the POET ethanol plant in Chancellor before a dinner meeting with featured speaker Denny Everson, Former SDARL co-founder and Executive Director.

The second day of the seminar began at Avera eCare, where Clinical Educator Cindy Pirrung discussed how Avera addresses rural clinical and emergency care needs via telemedicine. The class then traveled to rural Sioux Falls to explore ag product distribution within the Wholesale Trade-Nondurable Goods Sector at a Winfield United Warehouse. The day concluded with a tour of the Earth Resources Observation and Science Center in Garretson, S.D., followed by a reception at the Stockyards Ag Experience Barn and Museum. The Stockyards Experience featured Founder and Past President, Jim Woster, and Executive Director Abby Bischoff.

The final day of the seminar was held at Raven Industries corporate offices. Shane Swedlund, Engineering & University Relations Manager for Raven Applied Technology, joined Product Manager Chad Biegler, Implementation Specialist Ben Etsinger and Sales Engineer Travis Bunde in a discussion of precision planting technologies developed and innovated at Raven. Bunde is a graduate of SDARL Class VII.

Throughout the seminar, Class X members continued preparations for their upcoming International Study Seminar in Vietnam and Cambodia.

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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