South Dakota Agricultural and Rural Leadership Foundation

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SDARL Program Overview & History



SDARL was formed in 1999 and is dedicated to identifying and developing leaders in agriculture and rural communities. This unique program is designed to provide leadership training to rural residents from farming, ranching, agri-industry, and agricultural

organizations. The goal is to assist program participants in gaining the vision, knowledge, confidence, and commitment necessary to assume leadership roles in South Dakota’s agricultural industry.




To ensure that the South Dakota rural and agricultural communities can keep pace with the rate of change, it is imperative that we continue to supply informed, decisive, communicative spokespersons to represent our industry and communities, keeping the public factually informed, as policies are constructed and decisions are made. To address these needs, SDARL provides an intensive study and training experience for future agricultural leaders of South Dakota.


Class Structure / Seminars


Each SDARL class is composed of approximately 30 individuals who are actively involved in production ag or in agribusiness.  Applications for the next class, Class X, will be taken during the first quarter of 2018 with a class start date of November 2018.


Class members are required to attend all seminars, complete pre-seminar reading assignments, participate in informal question and answer periods, evaluate seminars and report highlights ot the media, civic groups, and/or community organizations.


The SDARL program consists of 12 seminars over an 18-month period. Ten of the seminars are 3-4 day in-state seminars held at a variety of locations across South Dakota beginning in November of the first year and ending in March of the following year. The national seminar is a week-long study/travel seminar to Washington, DC in February of the first year. The international travel seminar is a 10-12 day study seminar held typically in February of the second year, just prior to graduation. Class I visited New Zealand/Australia; Class II went to the Netherlands, Belgium and the UK. Brazil and Argentina were the destination for Class III with Class IV spending time in China. Class V spent their seminar in South Africa in February 2010 and Class VI went to China in February 2012. Class VII traveled to Chile and Peru.


The cost of the SDARL program now exceeds $400,000 per class for the two-year program. Participants are responsible for approximately one quarter of the actual costs incurred on their behalf. Foundation, organization, corporate and individual contributions are utilized to provide the balance of funding for each student, of which the SDARL office is responsible for securing.

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Contact Us


Lori Cope, Executive Director

West River Ag Center

1905 Plaza Boulevard

Rapid City, SD 57702-9302

Cell: 605-216-6178



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