The South Dakota Agricultural and Rural Leadership Program (SDARL) takes 28 individuals on a leadership journey for 18 months every two years. Participants emerge from the program prepared to lead their communities and the state, and make significant contributions to agriculture nationally and globally.

Through a series of 12 seminars, participants grow in their knowledge of the broad scope of agriculture and agribusiness in South Dakota, the nation, and the world. Most of the seminars are 3 days in length and are held at locations across South Dakota. One week is spent in Washington, D.C to gain insights into policy-making at the national level. The class allocates two weeks to study in a foreign country, examining the global nature of agriculture and the challenges of feeding the world.

There are no academic prerequisites to apply to the program. Men and women, age 25 to 55, who are working in farming, ranching, or an allied field (ag finance, inputs, biofuels, transportation, and others) with a sphere of influence in South Dakota are welcome to submit an application to be a class member. The 28 seats that are available will have broad representation across agricultural disciplines, so the rancher, farmer, banker, mayor, seed supplier, dairy farmer, ag marketer, etc. all learn about leadership together – and from each other. It is a leadership development experience like no other.


December 2018
January 2019


SDARL Board President

Nate Franzen


Nate joined First Dakota National Bank in October of 1998 and is currently the President of the Agri-Business Division, overseeing all aspects of agricultural banking for the company. In this capacity he is a member of their Executive Management team. First Dakota National Bank has total assets exceeding $1.5 billion and is one of the largest Ag Banks in the country. Nate grew up on a diversified family dairy, grain, and beef cattle farming operation near Langford, SD. He obtained his Bachelor of Science degree at Northern State University with majors in Management and Marketing, his Masters in Business Administration (MBA) from the University of South Dakota, and earned a degree from the American Banker’s Association’s Stonier Graduate School of Banking held at Georgetown University. In 2011, Nate was appointed to the American Bankers Association’s Agriculture and Rural Bankers Committee and served as Chairman in 2015. In April of 2017 he testified before the House Ag Committee on Farm Bill related matters. He is a graduate of Class I of the South Dakota Agriculture and Rural Leadership (SDARL) Program where he is a past President of their Alumni Association, joined their Board of Directors in 2013, and is currently Chairman of the Board.


Roxanne Knock

Vice President

Dr. Roxanne Knock is the Staff Nutritionist at Dakotaland Feeds where she is responsible for providing technical leadership, producer communications, and feed formulations for their 6 facilities in South and North Dakota. After growing up on a diversified crop and livestock operation and being active in FFA and 4-H, Roxanne earned a degree in Animal Science from South Dakota State University, a Master’s Degree in Meat Science from Kansas State University, and a PhD in Ruminant Nutrition from Iowa State University. In addition to her role at Dakotaland Feeds, she and her husband, Eric, and their 4 children are fourth (and fifth) generation cattle producers and run a cow-calf operation near Tulare, SD where they develop their own replacement females and retain ownership on their calves to finish. She is a founding member of the South Dakota Cattlemen’s Foundation, a Sunday School teacher at Tulare United Church, a member of the Tulare Daycare board, and has served on the advisory board for the SDSU College of Agriculture, Food, and Environmental Sciences. Roxanne is a non-alumni representative on the SDARL board.

SDARL Board Nathan Sparks

Nathan Sparks


Nathan Sparks joined Dakota Mac, a Division of First Dakota National Bank in February 2003 as a Loan Production Officer, traveling the Upper Midwest originating and servicing Ag real estate loans. First Dakota National Bank has total assets exceeding $1.5 billion and is one of the largest Ag Banks in the country. Nathan grew up in Armour with post-secondary education coming from Lake Area Technical Institute in Watertown earning an Associate’s Degree in Ag Finance and graduating in 1996. Since then, Nathan has completed Midwest Banking Institute and Experienced Ag Lending School organized by the SD Bankers Association. Additionally, Nathan graduated from Class 2 of SDARL and was very involved with the SDARL Alumni Association serving as Treasurer. He currently serves as the Treasurer of the SDARL Foundation Board. Nathan is a member of the Holy Family Church finance committee, Vice President of the Mitchell Baseball Association, and a past chairman and current member of the Mitchell Area Ag Chamber Committee where he received the 2018 Volunteer of the Year award for his continued involvement of Ag in the Classroom.

SDARL Board Secretary

Terry Jaspers


Terry Jaspers has been employed with Farm Credit Services of America since 1978 after graduating from South Dakota State University in Brookings with a Bachelors Degree in Agricultural Education. He began as a loan officer with the Federal Land Bank in Sioux Falls and is currently a Financial Officer serving the lending needs of farmers and ranchers in the northeast corner of South Dakota. Terry resides in the city of Sisseton where he has been involved in city government for a number of years as a Councilman and currently serves as Mayor. He has also been involved in and served in leadership roles for numerous service and church organizations in the Sisseton community. Terry has served on the Coteau Des Prairies Hospital Board of Directors for an extended period of time and is the current Chairman. In addition to full time employment with Farm Credit Services of America and service to his community, he operates the family farm near Eden, SD where he grew up. Terry is a member of SDARL Class III and currently serves as Secretary of the SDARL Foundation Board.

SDARL Board Bill Even

Bill Even

Bill Even is the Chief Executive Officer for the National Pork Board based in Des Moines, IA. Prior to his employment with the National Pork Board, Bill served as the Global Industry Relations Lead for DuPont Pioneer where he managed the global corporate engagement strategy focusing on collaborative stakeholder relationships in the areas of seed, biotechnology, biofuels and farm policy. Bill also served as Commercial Unit Lead for DuPont Pioneer in South Dakota, North Dakota and northwest Minnesota. In that role, he was responsible for leading the seed sales, marketing, agronomy, training, research, production and policy needs in the region. Before joining DuPont Pioneer, Bill served as South Dakota Secretary of Agriculture from 2007 to 2010. During his tenure as Secretary of Agriculture, Bill managed six department divisions: Agriculture Regulatory Services, Agriculture Development, State Fair, Wildland Fire, Resource Conservation and Forestry, and Agricultural Policy. Bill also served as Deputy Secretary of Tourism and State Development, Director of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, State Energy Policy Director, and Policy Advisor for Governor Mike Rounds.

Bill holds a degree in Agricultural Production from Lake Area Technical Institute, a Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Business and minor in Economics from South Dakota State University; and a Juris Doctorate from Drake University Law School, where he was an Opperman Scholar.

Krystil Smit

South Dakota Farm Bureau Federation Huron

Krystil Smit is the Executive Director of South Dakota Farm Bureau. She has been involved in the agriculture industry her entire life, having grown up on a diversified crop and livestock operation. She was an active FFA and 4-H member and served as the State 4-H President. After graduating from South Dakota State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture Journalism and an Animal Science minor, she became the editor of the regional agriculture publication Tri-State Neighbor. Krystil has also held director roles in communications and public relations for the South Dakota Corn Growers Association/SD Corn Utilization Council and Paulsen Marketing. Krystil has held several organizational board positions including with the Stockyards Ag Experience Barn, Sioux Empire Staters, Sioux Empire Fair Board, First National Bank Sioux Falls Next Generation, Sioux Falls Chamber Ag Committee and Turner County Fair Next Generation, along with other community and church leadership roles. Krystil is a non-alumni representative on the SDARL board.

Eric Jennings SDARL Board

Eric Jennings

Owner and Operator Jennings Cattle Ranch Spearfish

Eric Jennings owns and operates a beef cattle ranch with his wife, Michelle, in Spearfish, SD, living in the house he grew up in. After graduating from South Dakota State University with a degree in Agricultural Education, he taught vocational agriculture in Lennox, SD for two years before returning to his family’s ranch in 1988.  Because the ranch included land in the Black Hills National Forest and along Spearfish Creek, Eric has been active in protecting private property and public grazing rights, and educating the public on how responsible management of these lands can contribute to the ecological health of the land.  As a life-time learner, Eric has attended many seminars and workshops along with graduating from South Dakota Agriculture and Rural Leadership (SDARL) and receiving training as a Conflict Resolution Facilitator.  Eric has had leadership roles in many organizations over the past years.  He currently serves on the Board of Directors of SDARL, Northern Hills Sources of Support, Spearfish Rural Fire Protection District, South Dakota Cattlemen Association, Black Hills Regional Multiple Use Coalition, and Society of Black Hills Pioneers.  Eric is also involved with United Methodist Church and the Masonic Lodge.

John Melius

John Melius joined Hurley & Associates in January of 2006 and is currently the Branch Manager of the Brookings office and member of the Hurley leadership team. The firm is dedicated to helping producers make logical business-minded marketing decisions for their operation, which leads to the economic stability of farm families and their communities. During his tenure with Hurley & Associates, the Brookings location has grown from 2 employees to 18 and serves clients throughout South Dakota and the surrounding states. John grew up near Chelsea SD on a grain and cattle operation where his parents still farm. He obtained BS degrees in Ag Economics and Ag Business from South Dakota State University. John has continued to further his education and insight into agriculture through TEPAP – The Executive Program for Ag Producers – and SDARL, the South Dakota Agricultural & Rural Leadership program, where he was a member of Class VI, and serves as a member of the Foundation Board of Directors and Graduate Committee. John has also held various positions of leadership in his church.

SDARL Board Brad

Brad Sanderson

Brad Sanderson, from Lake Preston, South Dakota, is currently enjoying an opportunity as a second-career minister. For over three years Brad has served a two-point Lutheran parish on a full-time basis, with the larger congregation having been his home congregation for more than thirty years. Brad grew up on a diversified farm near Flandreau and attended South Dakota State University, majoring in agricultural education. The Lake Preston and Kingsbury County area has been “home” for many, many years and Brad has been very involved with several aspects of the community. Brad has been involved with adult education, coordinating and implementing an Adult Farm Business Management Program in Kingsbury County in the 1980s and 1990s. For over 15 years Brad was involved in ag banking, serving as branch manager of First Savings Bank in Lake Preston and also as vice president of Citizens State Bank in Arlington. Brad also worked for Legend Seeds of De Smet. While living in the Lake Preston area Brad has served on the area development board, spending more than five years as president of that board. Brad has been a past member of the local Jaycee chapter and Kiwanis Club, serving several years as presidents of those organizations. Brad was also a member of the Kingsbury County Extension Support Coalition, serving as president for two years. Brad currently sits on the Lake Preston Higher Education Foundation board of directors and has been the secretary of that organization for 15 years. Until the recent formation of the South Dakota Agricultural and Rural Leadership Foundation, Brad was the Secretary of the South Dakota Ag and Rural Leadership Alumni organization for over ten years and currently sits on the Board of Directors of the Foundation.

SDARL Board Craig Schaunaman

Craig Schaunaman

Craig Schaunaman is a fourth generation Farmer/Rancher in Brown County. He has been actively involved in agriculture for over 40 years. Beginning in 1977 he farmed with both his father and brother. For the last 24 years he and his brother have operated a farming partnership near the Aberdeen area. Craig attended Aberdeen Central High School and Northern State University. From 1988-1998 Craig was elected to five consecutive terms in the South Dakota Legislature. In 2009 Craig was appointed to serve as the South Dakota State Executive Director for the USDA Farm Service Agency until 2017. Craig has also served on numerous state and local boards including Heartland Grain Fuels, Dakota Fuels, Aberdeen Development Corporation, and the Brown County Drainage Board. He currently serves on the Ag Advisory Board for the First Dakota National Bank.

Diamond – $20,000 and up

  • First Dakota National Bank
  • SD Soybean and Research Council
  • South Dakota Corn Growers

Platinum – $10,000 – 19,999

  • Avera Health
  • CHS Foundation
  • CoBank
  • Dacotah Bank
  • First Premier Bank & Premier Bank Card
  • South Dakota Community Foundation
  • Valley Queen Cheese

Gold – $5,000 – 9,999

  • East River Electric Power Cooperative
  • Farm Credit Services of America
  • First National Bank Sioux Falls
  • Fishback Financial Corporation – First Bank and Trust
  • Glen and Janet Davis – Legend Seed
  • Midwest Dairy Association
  • Sanford Health
  • SDSU Foundation
  • South Dakota Beef Industry Council
  • South Dakota Wheat Commission
  • SD Wheat Growers – AgTegra

Silver – $1,000 – 4,999

  • Black Hills Forest Association
  • Dakotaland Feeds
  • DeSmet Farm Mutual
  • First National Bank in Yankton
  • Great Western Bank
  • Harms Oil
  • Hoop Beef
  • Hurley & Associates
  • MetaBank
  • Milborn Seeds
  • Monsanto
  • Raven Industries
  • RC PE Railroad
  • Riverview Farms
  • South Dakota Agricultural Foundation
  • South Dakota Community Foundation
  • South Dakota Farm Bureau
  • South Dakota Soybean Processors
  • Zoetis

Bronze – $100 – 999

  • SD Grain and Feed Association
  • SD Soybean Processors
  • Wagner Farms

Give Now

Every gift to SDARL means an opportunity for leadership development, and better leaders make for a better South Dakota.