Members of Class XI of the South Dakota Agricultural and Rural Leadership Program (SDARL) began their leadership learning journey by exploring their strengths, developing as a team, and hearing individual stories as they begin the process of leadership development. The “SDARL Legacy Leadership Orientation Seminar” was held in Oacoma November 5-6, 2021.

The seminar featured self-introductions, meetings with the SDARL staff, and inspirational speakers, such as Lucas Lentsch, former South Dakota Secretary of Agriculture and Chief Federation Officer for Dairy Management, Inc, which manages the national dairy checkoff on behalf of dairy farmers. Lentsch spoke about the need to focus on the leadership seminars as a time of self-growth and benefit.

Retired SDARL Executive Director Lori Cope spoke to the group about taking ownership of their leadership gifts. Heather Niederwerder, a member of the SDARL Board of Directors and President of Class X, held a lively question-and-answer session for class members and spouses about what to expect in the program.

Class XI joined with 60 SDARL graduates for an evening reception and celebration of the organization’s 20th Anniversary. Donors who endowed the Legacy Leadership Orientation Seminar and others were recognized, and keynote speaker Michael Oster talked about “Making Excellence Your Average.”

The second day of the seminar began with an exploration of “InsideOut Leadership,” led by Logan Joyce of Gray Matter Growth. Utilizing Gallup CliftonStrengths©, he showed class members and spouses how their unique strengths inform the way they think, influence, execute, and relate.

The luncheon speaker was Congressman Dusty Johnson, who discussed current issues in agriculture and policy in Washington, D.C. with the class and alumni. The class concluded their strengths exploration and held a debriefing session.

The SDARL program is a series of 12 seminars over 18 months where competitively-selected class members learn the skills, knowledge and character of leaders for agriculture and rural communities in South Dakota. SDARL also offers leadership training to partner organizations and to graduates through SDARL Learning Network. The SDARL Foundation, a 501 (c) 3 corporation under South Dakota law, is the management and funding organization for the program and other leadership development efforts.


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