Exploring the patchwork of cultures and people that unite agriculture and rural communities was the focus of the fifth seminar of South Dakota Agricultural & Rural Leadership Program (SDARL) Class XI during the Human Diversity in Agriculture Seminar April 5-7, 2022.

On the first day of the seminar, class members provided input for a focus group on mental health in agriculture to assist research being conducted at South Dakota State University (SDSU). Round table discussions included the importance of identifying symptoms and knowing available resources to deal with stress, depression, and preventing suicide.

Also on the first day, class members were led in an exploration of emotional intelligence, including recognizing and embracing strengths and values in communicating with others. The group participated in exercises to improve communication, understanding and emotion.

Members of SDARL Class XI discuss their understanding of emotional intelligence across five parameters in an exercise to improve communication defining their personal purpose statement.

SDARL Graduate Kari O’Neill, SDSU Extension Community Vitality Program Manager, provided an insightful technique on recognizing how experiences shape our culture, values, beliefs and feelings. The day concluded with a talk and discussion by South Dakota native P.J. Painter who discussed challenges facing LGBTQ individuals, including hate crimes and familial relationships.

SDARL III Graduate Kari O’Neill, SDSU Extension Community Vitality Program Manager, provided insights on building inclusive communities by understanding how experiences shape our culture, values, beliefs and feelings.

The second day of the seminar featured Jason Schoch, SDSU Extension, discussing how the AgrAbility program is being implemented in South Dakota, and his work addressing food insecurity and mental and behavioral health issues on the Pine Ridge Reservation. Class XI members traveled to the Oaklane Hutterite Colony where Farm Manager John Wipf discussed incorrect perceptions of colonies by the general public. He spoke about the culture, customs, and agricultural lifestyle in the colony, and noted that the colony was impacted significantly by the avian flu outbreak.

The class visited the Lower Brule Reservation Tribal Headquarters where Chris Skunk, Cultural Program Director, and Sheldon Fletcher, Environmental Protection Officer, discussed challenges and opportunities in the community. These challenges include buying back historically tribal land, increasing knowledge of farming among tribe members, and clearing misconceptions  the general public has about Native American culture. The tribe desires to improve life expectancy, reduce substance abuse, and encourage further education among tribal members.

Representatives of the Lower Brule Tribe discussed challenges and opportunities for the native community.

The final day of the seminar was held in Huron, SD. Class members toured the Dakota Provisions turkey processing facility and learned of the diverse workforce that has revitalized the community. Greater Huron Development Corporation CEO Ted Haeder shared stories of how the community has increased the quality of life in schools, housing, and cultural amenities due to the influx of foreign workers.

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