Engaged Leadership for a Vibrant South Dakota!


To identify and develop leadership for agriculture and rural communities to enhance the quality of life in South Dakota.


Founded in 1998 by a group of forward-thinking educators and agricultural professionals, the South Dakota Agricultural and Rural Leadership Program (SDARL) was established to ensure that the South Dakota rural agricultural community continues to thrive! The SDARL leadership program is conducted under the auspices of a 15-member Board of Directors who oversee the SDARL Foundation, a 501 ( c ) 3 non-profit organization. There are approximately thirty such agricultural leadership programs across the United States and Canada, in addition to the international Nuffield Scholars program. Our flagship 18-month leadership program is the primary means of carrying out the mission of the SDARL Foundation, along with educational opportunities for alumni and other agricultural entities in the state.


The SDARL program has 330 alumni from the first eleven classes. Class XII will be selected in early 2023 and will carry out its 18-month leadership development experience between November 2023 and April 2025. Every day, SDARL graduates make a positive and profound impact on agriculture and rural communities throughout the state. Our leaders serve on commodity boards and county boards, in legislative chambers and chambers of commerce: building consensus, building teams, building South Dakota. You see the results of our leadership development program when our graduates serve as volunteers and leaders on school, city, church, healthcare, economic development, county commission, zoning, and industry boards. They are leading by example as members of commodity groups and ag lending institutions. They are leading by positive influence in our state’s legislature, in state agencies, and as governor appointees in various capacities. We are proud of what they have accomplished and of the positive results that will happen in the future. Much of that started when they made their decisions to take part in the SDARL program. A SDARL experience will prepare you for lifelong leadership opportunities.

Testimonials: Personal Gain Comments from SDARL Graduates
  • Self-confidence.
  • Awareness of SD and world agricultural issues.
  • The educational learning experiences have been an outstanding, mind-challenging experience.
  • I believe SDARL is an extension of my college degree, an unofficial “Master’s.”
  • My ability to think “out of the box” has been broadened.
  • I’ve gained confidence in myself. It has changed me in so many positive ways.
  • I can better express my thoughts and ideas to others.
  • Deep and lifelong friendships with my classmates, and a connection to hundreds of SDARL alumni.
  • I now have the tools to take on an agricultural or rural issue and make a difference.
  • The ability to see both sides of an issue and respect the pros and cons presented.
  • Broader base of knowledge among many issues.
  • A more global perspective of agriculture and world issues.
  • SDARL has made me more aware of how to handle situations in my everyday life.
  • I have the confidence now to step forward and speak up on issues of agriculture and rural life.
  • I gained personally from every seminar speaker who made us think from a different perspective. I also have greater knowledge about Agriculture across South Dakota.
  • SDARL has given me a broader sense of awareness at the local, national, and international levels.
  • An incredible network of resources and friends throughout many different industries and institutions all over the state.