Members of Class XI of the South Dakota Agricultural and Rural Leadership Program (SDARL) began their leadership learning journey by exploring their strengths, meeting the SDARL Board of Directors, and hearing from newly-elected Congressman Dusty Johnson. The Leadership Orientation Seminar was held November 9-10, in Mitchell. During the seminar, class members were joined by their spouses/partners for self-introductions and team building.
“I was asked to apply for the state FSA committee, and I was appointed by the White House and (U.S. Secretary of Agriculture) Sonny Perdue, which is huge, and that wouldn’t have happened without SDARL.”
“I have been through a few leadership classes/seminars in my career. While almost every one provided some nugget of knowledge that could be added to my leadership portfolio, SDARL seems to be putting nugget after nugget on the table and challenging me to pick them up. I appreciate the fact that this is not about reading/writing about leadership, but more about engaging leaders, learning from them and actually practicing some of the skills that successful leaders possess.”
Our alumni are the most dedicated servant leaders in the state. Hear them talk about their SDARL experience.
You can apply NOW for our next leadership class. Class XI begins in November 2020. Applications will only be accepted for a short time.
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Cindy owns and operates Hillsview Farms along with her husband and their three sons. They maintain a cow/calf and feedlot operation. They also have a herd of registered Polled Herefords and sell bulls annually off the farm. Their farming operation consists of growing feed for the cattle as well as corn and soybeans to market. Cindy has a B.S. in Animal Science with a Business option and a minor in Economics from South Dakota State University.
Chad is a Product Manager with Raven Industries Applied Technology Division. In this role, he is an instrumental part in advancing innovation to support the global production of agriculture. Growing up near Timber Lake, he continues to support the local community and family business as time permits. Chad holds a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from North Dakota State University and Master of Business Administration from the University of Mary.
Corey covers most of East River as well as a few counties West River with Dairyland Seed. He joins his family as the 6th generation on their 2,000-acre corn and soybean operation. His passion for agriculture started at a young age as he worked on the farm with his grandfather, Roland, and father, Brian. Besides their grain operation, the family also raised Suffolk sheep and showed them, along with various other exhibits, in 4H. Corey earned a B.S. in Agronomy from South Dakota State University in 2017.
Caleb grew up next to a small dairy and beef operation in south central Minnesota, where he worked and grew to love the agriculture industry. The farm had about 60 Holstein dairy cows, 100 head of beef of mixed breeds, and 150 acres of land surrounding the farm. He continued to grow his interest in agriculture at South Dakota State University where he earned a degree in Agriculture Systems Technology. After school, he started with Raven Industries in the Applied Technology division working in the technical support center. Caleb currently serves on his church council as a Councilman at Large.
Stacia is a go-getting entrepreneur of many endeavors including being a Mary Kay Independent Beauty Consultant and lifestyle blogger of “Even in the Midwest” blog. The flexibility of entrepreneurship gives her the ability to support her husband on the farm with their cow/calf pairs, mechanic shop, and crop farming. Stacia currently serves on the Hartford Area Chamber of Commerce Board and is a leader of the Events Committee at her church. Stacia has an associate degree in Marketing and Communications from Southeast Technical Institute.
Evan leads a team of over 70 employees responsible for the pickup and transportation of nearly 5 million pounds of milk daily from the farm to the plant. Valley Queen produces cheese and dairy products that are shipped across the globe. Evan currently serves on the American Dairy Association of SD board, South Dakota Trucking Association Board of Directors and Junior Achievement instructor. Evan has a B.S. in Business Economics from South Dakota State University.
Kevin joined First Dakota in 2005 and has over 20 years of ag lending and banking experience. He holds a B.S. in Business Administration and a Master of Business Administration from the University of South Dakota. Kevin grew up on a grain and livestock operation in north central South Dakota. He currently serves on the Yankton Boys and Girls Club Advisory Board, South Dakota Bankers Association Ag Credit Committee (past Chair) and is a Junior Achievement volunteer.
Marcus joined Millborn Seeds in 2014 and spends his days analyzing data, tracking projects, and optimizing processes. Millborn Seeds distributes cover crop, forage, grass, pollinator, and native seeds products across the US, impacting hundreds of thousands of acres. While obtaining his B.S. in Mathematics from South Dakota State University, Marcus also participated in men’s basketball and baseball. He currently serves on the SDSU/ Brookings Area Fellowship of Christian Athletes board and his church finance council.
Neal’s background in agriculture extends to over 20 years in the crop insurance industry. Neal also joins his brother in their 4th generation farm operation, growing corn, soybeans, wheat and alfalfa – in addition to running 150 head of cow/calf pairs annually. He is a member of the Elks, Moose and SD Farmers Union and has coached youth baseball, basketball and football. He currently serves on the Ag Committee for the Huron Chamber and has served on several other boards in the community. Neal has an associate degree in Ag Business and Technology from Mitchell Technical Institute.
Growing up on the west side of Lake Herman in Madison, Cindy developed a deep appreciation for living and working in the country. She serves on the SD Ag in the Classroom Program Advisory Team, as director of YES! (Youth Eating Smart) Summer Camps, and as secretary of the Lennox Band Boosters. She holds a B.A. in Communication Studies & Theatre & English Education from South Dakota State University, is a licensed 5-12 Language Arts/Speech teacher, and possesses a Master of Divinity in Pastoral Care & Counseling/ Community Development from Sioux Falls Seminary. She also works as a part-time chaplain at Sanford Hospital.
Mark has a B.S. in Rangeland Ecology from Utah State University and a Master of Biological Sciences with a Grassland Graduate Certificate from South Dakota State University. He currently works on his family farm in Fallon, Nevada, growing alfalfa, rye and cover crops for winter grazing. Mark and his wife Melissa have a small purebred Red Angus herd and commercial herd that runs on his family’s ranch. Mark was previously the Resource Program Manager and the Range Ecologist at Custer State Park. He commutes to South Dakota for SDARL participation.
Heather manages the Marion branch, specializing in farm and small business taxation. Heather and her husband, Shawn, have three sons and raise corn and soybeans on their family farm outside of Marion. Originally from Onida, Heather graduated from Sully Buttes High School and earned a B.S. in Business Administration and a Master of Professional Accountancy from the University of South Dakota.
A 4th generation farmer, Brandon returned to the farm in 2010 after receiving his B.S. in Agriculture and working in landscaping for two years after college. He shares operation of their 2,100-acre corn and soybean farm with his father where they strive to adopt new technologies and practices to stay on top of the ever-changing agricultural industry. Brandon has participated in numerous farm programs and seminars including Dupont’s Next Generation Producer and First Dakota’s Beginning Farmer Program in effort to connect with others in agriculture.
Cory grew up in Alcester, where his family owned and operated the local fertilizer company and hardware store. Besides growing up on a farm, he learned many different aspects of agriculture through several different farm hand jobs that is grandpa was notorious for “farming him out for.” Cory is a graduate of South Dakota Leadership, current mentor for the Genesis Mentoring Program, Lincoln Booster Club member, Past President of Lincoln County Pheasants Forever Chapter and is currently serving on the Board for the Sioux Falls Hope Coalition. Cory has a B.S. in Business Management from the University of South Dakota.
Colette Kessler oversees comprehensive public relations and outreach for the agency. Growing up just north of Rosebud and southwest of White River, her roots in agriculture remain strong as she continues to own livestock and be active with her family’s ranch. They have a cow/calf herd and take in yearlings. As a 4th generation agriculture and 3rd generation South Dakotan, publishing positive stories of agriculture and natural resources is her passion. Colette has a B.A. in Journalism and Speech, with minors in Spanish, Geography and Sociology, from South Dakota State University.
Inspiring others to be more, to be better and to be themselves is Shannon’s ‘why.’ Living on her husband’s family farm, she puts her B.A. in Communication, Marketing and PR from Nebraska Wesleyan University to work by helping seed dealers build their seed dealerships as the Marketing Implementation Team Lead at LG Seeds. Along with her husband, Trent, and their son Landon, they have a cattle, crop and hay operation with his brother along with helping Trent’s family with their farm. Shannon enjoys running and is a member of Team Beef South Dakota.
Justin is a full-time farmer with his family on their 3rd generation cattle and grain operation. They farm 4,000 acres of corn, wheat, soybeans and alfalfa. Most of the crops grown are put back into feed for their 2,000-head feedlot and 800 head cow/calf operation. All of their cattle are fed to finish, along with the other purchased cattle they acquire to fill the feedlot yearly. Justin attended South Dakota State University, earning an associate degree in General Agriculture, before returning home to the family farm.
Mike Miller and his wife Michelle Friesen raise corn, soybeans, and have a cow/calf operation on 1600 acres northwest of Freeman. They are the 5th generation of farmers for both families and utilize variable rate and mapping technologies in their crop operations, and rotational grazing with their cow/calf operation. Mike has served on his local coop board for over 20 years and is the Farmers Union director for District One. Mike has a B.S. in Management and a B.A. in Accounting from Bethel College, North Newton, Kansas.
Paul grew up on his family’s farm near Lake Poinsett and from there went on to get a B.S. in Economics and a minor in Accounting from South Dakota State University. Paul’s focus has been working with farmers and ranchers on their lending and crop insurance needs. Paul served for seven years on the Watertown Area Chamber of Commerce Ag Committee, while being the Chairman for one of those years. He is currently a board member for the Greater Madison Area Chamber of Commerce Ag Committee, First District Development Company and the Interlakes Area United Way.
Dani leads teams in the marketing, strategy, promotions, and communications efforts to farmers and dealers across the Midwest. She is on the leadership team at Legend to lead in the direction, vision, and messaging to ensure products and services rendered give growers more choice, an ease of doing business, and higher profit potential. Dani currently serves her church on the Missions Team and coordinates Financial Peace University courses alongside her husband. As a native of southwest Minnesota, Dani’s passion for agriculture was derived from her rural upbringing and previous experiences working in the livestock nutrition and health sector. Dani has a B.A. in Mass Communications/ Journalism from South Dakota State University.
In addition to his NRCS career, Matt is involved in the family ranch he grew up on, Odden Cattle Co., near Ree Heights, raising purebred Charolais and Red Angus as well as a commercial cow herd. Matt and his children are the 5th and 6th generation to raise cattle in SD. Matt has served as Chair of the Rapid City Chamber Ag & Natural Resources Committee and on the SD 4-H Strategic Plan Committee. He currently serves as the President of SD Section Society for Range Management, President of the Pennington Co. Extension Advisory Board, Pennington Co. 4-H Volunteer, Western Junior Livestock Show committee chair and Wish Granter for Make-A-Wish SD. Matt has a B.S. in Range Science from South Dakota State University.
Emily’s role is to serve cattle ranchers, feedlots, nutritionists, and veterinarians by leveraging a diverse product portfolio and management tools with Elanco. She is an active member in the South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association, South Dakota Summer Spotlight Show Committee, and AFA Alliance. Emily grew up in southwest Michigan on a small specialty crop and livestock farm and received a B.S. in Animal Science with an Agribusiness Management minor from Michigan State University. She and her husband reside in Highmore and operate a Hereford and commercial cow/calf operation.
Jarrett works alongside his father and brother as a 4th generation farmer at their 9,000-acre row crop operation specializing in corn and soybeans. Jarrett also helps out at his in-laws farm at Bumpy Road Ranch, where they raise heritage breed pork and pasture-raised chickens and turkeys. Jarrett is currently on the board of Hub Area Habitat for Humanity and is active in the Aberdeen Chamber of Commerce serving on the Transportation and Ag committees. Jarrett has a B.S. in Engineering and Construction Management from North Dakota State University and a Master of Business Administration from the University of Mary.
Leander grew up on a diversified crop and livestock farm between Tabor and Lesterville. Upon graduating from South Dakota State University with a B.S. in Agricultural Education, he taught agriculture and computer science in Woonsocket. He then transitioned to the position as District Sales Manager, which he has held for over 20 years. He works with a team of WinField United individuals positioning an entire portfolio of agronomy products and services to effectively support and grow agriculture production and agribusinesses.
Tanya and her partner Jeff Wolff own and operate Wolff Family Genetics where they raise and sell show pigs and elite breeding stock throughout the United States. They raise purebred Hampshire, Duroc, Yorkshire, Berkshire, Spot, Landrace, as well as crossbreds. They also plan and run the 450 head hog show at the annual SD Summer Spotlight Show. Tanya is a member of the Brown Co. Farm Bureau and served as their delegate to the state convention. She is very active in her local Order of the Eastern Star Chapter and Aberdeen Area Chamber of Commerce Ag Committee. Tanya graduated from South Dakota State University with a B.S. in Agronomy and a minor in Animal Science.
Elly Jo is a first-generation farmer, while her husband grew up farming and ranching. They run a 220 cow/calf herd of predominantly registered Hereford, have an annual bull sale, and farm 1,800 acres of corn, soybeans, and alfalfa. Before farming, Elly Jo received a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering at South Dakota State University. Currently, Elly Jo serves as a Tulare United Church board member, local 4-H Club leader, and SD Junior Hereford Co-Advisor.