The South Dakota Agricultural and Rural Leadership Program (SDARL) takes up to 30 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 rural communities, 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 30 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.

SDARL Class XII Seminar Schedule

1. SDARL Legacy Leadership Orientation Seminar | Mitchell, SD | Nov. 10-11, 2023

The leadership journey begins with an assessment of the strengths of each participant, and the group develops as a team. We hear individual stories, learn about the process of leadership development, and the unique attributes of the SDARL leadership program. Class members interact in a question/answer format with SDARL alumni, and inspirational and motivational speakers provide a glimpse of the character of leaders.

2. Communication Excellence | Brookings, SD | Dec. 12-14, 2023

Leadership is told in stories, and participants begin to learn how to tell their stories and become better communicators. Public speaking training and written communication is a highlight of this seminar, and interpersonal communication skills of how to work a room and network are explored. Class members begin to learn about the importance of their leadership attitude and finding a purpose in their own lives, as they listen to stories of community building and philanthropy that have shaped our state.

3. South Dakota State Government | Pierre, SD | Jan. 23-25, 2024

This seminar focuses on the process of creating change in SD with an exploration of the role of state government and issues critical to the future of our state. Class members learn how to engage in the legislative process and what is being done to solve the most important problems that face SD. Topics include how to introduce legislation, lobby on behalf of needed change, run for office, and engage in the lawmaking process. The session includes one-on-one discussions with state and legislative leaders, and briefings from state agency officials whose departments impact agriculture and rural communities.

4. Dacotah Bank Seminar on Environment, Biofuels, and Innovation | Aberdeen, SD | Mar. 12-14, 2024

Precision agriculture, biofuels, and next-generation uses for agricultural products are explored in this seminar on technology and innovation. Class members learn about the relationship between technology and job growth, and how SD is leading the nation in precision agriculture and the spinoff businesses that will drive future growth in the state.

5. Edge, Agropur, and Valley Queen National Study Seminar | Washington, D.C. | Apr. 6-11, 2024

National issues affecting rural economic development and SD agriculture are explored in the nation’s capital with in-person discussions with our state’s congressional representatives. Participants receive briefings from federal agencies and advocacy groups working on behalf of agriculture, Native nations, and rural development, and all sides of current issues are presented. Class members learn valuable leadership lessons at sites of historical interest.

6. Natural and Cooperative Resources | Custer State Park / Rapid City, SD | Jun. 24-27, 2024

The richness and variety of SD’s natural resources are explored in a seminar dedicated to the Black Hills area. The class learns about mutually beneficial partnerships between ag producers and public resources, and the state and national parks that draw visitors to the state.  Participants look at the importance of energy, beef cattle, military, and tourism as drivers of economic development.

7. First Dakota National Bank Seminar on Agriculture, Finance & Economic Development | Yankton, SD | Jul. 23-25, 2024

This seminar demonstrates how agriculture is the economic engine that drives SD. Class members learn of the relationship between ag products and processing, and how together these industries are a force for community and economic development. The class explores the policies and practices of how these entities are funded, and how the entrepreneurial spirit is encouraged and promoted.

8. Agtegra Seminar on Rural Vitality & Entrepreneurs | Aberdeen, SD | Aug. 27-29, 2024

The focus is on maintaining vibrant rural communities as participants learn about healthcare, cooperatives, and local business development. Class members study how local hospitals and clinics care for residents. Participants explore the cooperative system of agriculture production and marketing, and economic development efforts led by the growing commodity processing industry and local entrepreneurs come into focus as class members meet community influencers and business owners.

9. Rural Community Leadership | Spearfish, SD | Nov. 12-14, 2024

Rural communities can struggle with access to resources and social services to address issues of poverty, hunger, job growth, housing, and more. In this seminar we visit communities in remote western South Dakota to explore ways that rural leaders can address these challenges through economic development, industry partnerships, agricultural diversification, nonprofit services, and other innovative approaches to preserving and growing rural communities.

10. Human Dimensions in Agriculture | Chamberlain, SD | Dec. 10-12, 2024

SD is a patchwork of cultures and people, and the future of the state hinges on the ability of leaders to recognize and embrace people with varying backgrounds. This seminar explores the diverse cultures and populations represented in the state with a focus on successful community-building. Participants look inside themselves at their cultural awareness and emotional intelligence and explore organizations and initiatives that bring people together for the good of all.

11. International Study Seminar (approx. 2 weeks) | International destination TBA | Jan. /Feb. 2025

Class members travel to an international destination(s) of importance to South Dakota agriculture and learn lessons in community development in a variety of cultures. This seminar is the capstone of all study to date, interacting with U.S. government officials, global commodity and advocacy groups, and learning of challenges facing a growing world population.

12. SDARL Commencement | Sioux Falls, SD | Mar. 29-30, 2025

Class members will experience the importance of giving back by hosting a fundraising auction to benefit the upcoming leadership class. The seminar includes debriefing of the international study seminar and assimilation of the entire SDARL experience, and meet SDARL graduates to learn about alumni leadership, education, and travel opportunities. The class proudly joins SDARL alumni with a graduation ceremony and diploma.

Board of Directors

Heather Niederwerder

SDARL Board Chair Farm Credit Services of America New Underwood, SD

Heather Niederwerder is an Insurance Services Officer with Farm Credit Services of America.  Throughout the last 21+ year, Heather’s knowledge and experience working with producers in Western South Dakota has elevated her as a partner in her customer’s team of trusted advisors.   She is passionate about providing financial and risk management advice to many different producers to keep their operations viable in the volatile conditions they face.

Heather grew up learning about crops and cattle from her father, as well as, the hay grinding business from her grandfather.  She and her husband, Marty, live near Hereford and have a deep love of agriculture and a commitment to preserving this way of life.  They operated a small cow/calf operation and now provide trucking services to farmers and ranchers.

An alumni and class president of SDARL Class X, Heather spends time volunteering for many different ag and youth causes.  She is active in the Black Hills Stock Show Ranch Rodeo, the New Underwood Community Church, and FFA judging schools.

Krystil Smit

SDARL Board Vice Chair SD Farm Bureau Huron, SD

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.

Terry Jaspers SDARL Board member

Terry Jaspers

SDARL Board Treasurer Jaspers Farms Sisseton, SD

Terry Jaspers of Sisseton is an alumnus of SDARL Class III was elected to the SDARL Foundation Board of Directors in June 2022. This is his second time serving on the SDARL Foundation Board of Directors. He is retired as the Financial Officer after 43 years of service with Farm Credit Services of America. In addition, he operates a small-scale cash grain farming operation.

Along with his new role with SDARL, Terry also serves as Mayor of Sisseton SD. He is chairman of the Board of Directors for Coteau Des Prairies Health Care System in Sisseton SD.  He’s also active in St Peters Catholic Church Sisseton.

Terry Jaspers resides in Sisseton SD with his wife Sandi. They have three grown daughters.


Jon Nelson

SDARL Board Secretary Cattle Farmer Lake Preston, SD

Corey Chicoine

SDARL Board Class XI Representative Farmer/Pioneer Elk Point, SD

Todd Mortenson

SDARL Board Past Chair Mortenson Cattle Company Hayes, SD

Matt Dybedahl

Croplan/WinField United Pierre, SD

Matt Dybedahl is a Seed District Sales Manager for WinField United, working with growers and retailers in central and western South Dakota to optimize their acres.  Originally from Colton, Matt graduated from South Dakota State University in 2011, where he was a member of FarmHouse Fraternity, Block and Bridle, Agriculture Future of America, the Meat and Animal Evaluation Team, and Ag Bio.  Growing up, he was actively involved in 4-H and FFA and now likes to give back to those organizations by serving as the Ag Sales Career Development Event Chair and helps with other local events.  He is also currently a member of the South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association and South Dakota Ag Business Association.  In his spare time, he enjoys fishing on the Missouri River, hunting, 4-wheeling, traveling, and attending SDSU football and basketball games. He is an alumni of SDARL Class IX and represents his class as President, and lives in Pierre with his wife Sarah.

Ron Jeffries

Black Hills Stock Show/Central States Fair Rapid City, SD

Jonathan Kleinjan, PhD

South Dakota State University Extension Agronomist Brookings, SD

John Melius

Hurley & Associates Brookings, SD

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.

Kevin Moe

First National Bank of Omaha Yankton, SD

Kevin Moe serves as Vice President, Credit Policy Officer at First National Bank of Omaha. He joined FNBO in August 2017, and has been in the banking industry for over 29 years, primarily in ag lending and commercial banking.

Kevin holds a Business Economics degree from South Dakota State University with minors in Ag Business and Ag Marketing. He earned his Masters of Science in Finance from Georgetown University and his Master of Studies in Law with emphasis in Business Law and Financial Compliance from the University of Southern California’s Gould School of Law.

Kevin serves on the Corporation Board of the Boys and Girls Club of the Northern Plains as well as as a past president of the Boys and Girls Club advisory board in Yankton. He is also chair of Yankton Thrive and former President of Dakota Business Finance in Sioux Falls (Largest 504 SBA CDC in SD).

Kevin is a graduate of SDARL Class VII. His passion is spending time with family and friends – especially over a good meal.

Tiffany Sanderson

Lake Area Technical College Watertown, SD

Tiffany Sanderson serves as Lake Area Technical College’s sixth President in Watertown, SD. Lake Area Tech, a winner of the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, exists to launch students into in-demand and well-paying skilled professions. More than 99 percent of Lake Area Tech College’s students are employed or continuing their education following graduation.

Prior to her current role, she led K-12 education in South Dakota as the Secretary of Education. Sanderson’s career has focused on education and workforce development in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors. Notably, she led South Dakota’s technical college system as Director of Career and Technical Education (CTE) and helped develop important efforts like the Build Dakota Scholarship, the state’s reduced tuition dual credit program, and funding for technical colleges and regional CTE facilities.

A South Dakota native, Sanderson grew up on a ranch and graduated from Lemmon High School. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Education from South Dakota State University and her master’s in Administration: Human Resource Management from the University of South Dakota.

Sanderson’s husband, Nathan, is the executive director of a statewide trade organization, and son, Carter, is the director of their free time. In addition to leading Lake Area Technical College, Sanderson serves on the Watertown Development Company Board and the board of the South Dakota Ag & Rural Leadership Development (SDARL) program. She enjoys time with her family and friends, adventure in the outdoors, cheering on her hockey player, traveling, and supporting community efforts.

Sara Steever SDARL Board member

Sara Steever

Paulsen Sioux Falls, SD

If you want to know where agri-marketing is going, ask Sara. She’s already seen it, studied it, and figured out how excelling in digital spaces can help rural brands stand apart. Sara served as president of Paulsen from 2014 through 2021 before transitioning into her current role of Chief Technology Officer to further advance the agency’s impact in that arena.

Sara, a University of South Dakota alumna, was raised on a row-crop and livestock farm in southeastern South Dakota and joined Paulsen as a graphic designer in 1991. Her resume includes experience as a web developer and VP of Digital Services at Paulsen. She also served for seven years on the National Agri-Marketing (NAMA) Executive Committee, with two years as president of the professional organization. During her career, Sara was awarded the NAMA Marketer of the Year, the South Dakota Ad Federation Creative Legacy Award, and the Sioux Falls Business Journal Top Innovator of the Year.

Sara and her husband, John, have been married for 30 years, living on the land that has been in the Steever family since 1889. They have two children, John Thomas, a Mechanical Design Engineer for Sioux Steel in Lennox, SD, and Elizabeth, a Quality Assurance Team Lead for Schreiber Foods in Green Bay, WI. Because she doesn’t have enough on her plate, Sara and her husband also own and operate a rural bed-and-breakfast called The Steever House.

SDARL Board Craig Schaunaman

Craig Schaunaman

Schaunaman Farm Aberdeen, SD

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.

Ross Tschetter

Tschetter Farms Partnership Bridgewater, SD

Ross Tschetter farms with his family near Bridgewater, South Dakota. Ross is a graduate of First Dakota National Bank’s Agrivisions Beginning Farmer Rancher Program, South Dakota Agricultural and Rural Leadership Class VII, DuPont Pioneer’s NextGen Producers Program, and Texas A&M University Extension’s The Executive Program for Ag Producers.

Ross is a past member of the Bush Foundation’s South Dakota Advisory Committee and the SDARL Leadership Committee.  He has served in numerous leadership roles at Salem MB Church, including Chair of Trustees and Finance Committee. Ross belongs to several agriculture and conservation organizations, including South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association, South Dakota Grassland Coalition, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, and Backcountry Hunters and Anglers.

Hunter Roberts

Ex Officio Secretary of the South Dakota Department of Agriculture & Natural Resources Pierre, SD

Hunter Roberts currently serves South Dakota as the Cabinet Secretary of the Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources (DANR). DANR’s mission is to protect and preserve agriculture, environment, and natural resources through effective regulatory services, natural resource conservation, and financial and technical assistance.

Hunter holds a master’s degree in business administration and a Juris Doctor degree from the University of South Dakota.  A South Dakota native, Hunter resides in Pierre with his wife and two children. He is a 5th generation South Dakota farmer and rancher, who owns and operates a
diversified grain and cow-calf farm and ranch southeast of Ft. Pierre with his family.

Joseph Cassady, PhD

Ex Officio SD Corn Endowed Dean of Agricultural, Food & Environmental Sciences, SDSU Brookings, SD

Dr. Cassady is the South Dakota Corn Endowed Dean of the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences at South Dakota State University. He was raised on a diversified family farm in southern Iowa, earned a BS in Animal Science from Iowa State University, and earned MS and Ph.D. degrees in Animal Science from the University of Nebraska. Upon completing his Ph.D., Dr. Cassady worked as a research associate with the USDA ARS US Meat Animal Research Center in Clay Center, NE. He spent 12 years on the faculty of the Department of Animal Science at North Carolina State University earning the rank of Professor. He is a past-president of the National Swine Improvement Federation Board of Directors, and he served in a volunteer role as the Executive Director of the Beef Improvement Federation from 2009 to 2015. Dr. Cassady’s research focused on food animal genetics and genomics with special emphasis on the improvement of efficiency of production as it relates to pigs and beef cattle. Dr. Cassady, his wife, Dr. Beverly Shelbourn, DVM, and their two sons, Joseph and Cody, live in Brookings County, SD.

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.