The South Dakota Agricultural and Rural Leadership program has seven basic qualifications:

  1. Men and women approximately aged 25 – 55 years
  2. Employment in production agriculture, agriculture-related occupations, or community/rural development
  3. U.S. Citizen or permanent resident
  4. Live in South Dakota or have demonstrated a sphere of influence that benefits South Dakota agriculture and rural communities
  5. Demonstrated leadership experience
  6. Potential for future leadership growth
  7. Commitment by the individual, spouse/partner if applicable, and employer to attend all seminars, pay tuition, and abide by SDARL policies.
Mandatory Attendance

The ability to attend and participate in seminar learning experiences is a necessary part of the selection criteria. Because attendance is required, please check the dates of the Class XII seminars (listed below) before you apply to ensure your availability to attend. In total, the SDARL commitment includes about 50 days away from home over 12 seminars in the 18-month program

Family and Employer Support

Applicants must document to the satisfaction of the selection committee that his/her full participation in the SDARL program is supported both at home and at work. A signed agreement is required stating that spouse/partner (if applicable) and employer (if not self-employed) understand the time requirements for participation, and support the applicant’s candidacy.

Additional Study

Applicants must demonstrate during the interview process their ability to participate meaningfully in academic seminars, outside reading, seminar leadership duties, written assignments, and thorough self-expression. In addition, those chosen must support and abide by all policies, rules, and regulations of the South Dakota Agricultural and Rural Leadership Board of Directors. There are no specific education prerequisites for selection.


The application and accompanying forms are considered by a selection committee comprised of SDARL graduates, affiliates, and staff, which will interview eligible applicants and make a recommendation to the Board of Directors as to which applicants should be selected for a class. The SDARL Board of Directors votes to approve members of each class at its June meeting

Each class typically has 28 participants. All applications will be considered, regardless of gender, race, religion, creed, disability, age, marital status, veteran’s status, sexual orientation, or national origin.

Almost all of the applicants who apply for a class are “qualified” to be in the class, but there is only room for 28 class members. SDARL is looking for applicants who are receptive to experiential learning, have shown some signs of accepting leadership positions, and are dedicated to a career that advances agriculture and rural community development.

Other considerations for selection include:

  • Except in rare cases, close relatives (spouse, brother/sister) will not be selected for the same class.
  • The number of participants from the same organization or business entity in one class, or consecutive classes, may be limited.
  • It is the goal of the SDARL Board of Directors to have 2/3 of each class “hands-on” in a production agriculture occupation, and each class should have diversity among the types of production.


January 1, 2023

March 20, 2023

April 2020

Mid – April to May 2023

June 2023

November 2023


Applications open for Class XII

Applications due to SDARL

Applicants notified of interview date/location

Interviews with eligible applicants at various locations throughout the state

Board of Directors selects Class XII, class members notified, public announcement of Class XII members

First seminar meeting for Class XII


(All dates are subject to weather adjustments)

  1. SDARL Legacy Leadership Orientation Seminar (spouses included)

                                Mitchell, SD                                                                                      Nov. 10-11, 2023               

  1. Communication Excellence

                                Brookings, SD                                                                                  Dec. 12-14, 2023

  1. South Dakota State Government

                                Pierre, SD                                                                                          Jan. 23-25, 2024

  1. Dacotah Bank Seminar on Environment, Biofuels, and Innovation

Aberdeen, SD                                                                                   Mar. 12-14, 2024

  1. Edge, Agropur, and Valley Queen National Study Seminar

Washington, D.C.                                                                           Apr. 1-7, 2024

  1. Natural and Cooperative Resources

Custer State Park / Rapid City, SD                                             Jun. 24-27, 2024

  1. First Dakota National Bank Seminar on Agriculture, Finance & Economic Development

Sioux Falls, SD                                                                                 Jul. 23-25, 2024

  1. Agtegra Seminar on Rural Vitality & Entrepreneurs

Aberdeen, SD                                                                                   Aug. 27-29, 2024

  1. Rural Community Leadership

Spearfish, SD                                                                                   Nov. 12-14, 2024

  1. Human Dimensions in Agriculture

Chamberlain, SD                                                                             Dec. 10-12, 2024

  1. International Study Seminar (approx. 2 weeks)

International destination TBA                    Jan. 5-18, 2025 OR Feb. 9-22, 2025

  1. SDARL Commencement (spouses included)

Winner, SD                                                                                       Mar. 29-30, 2025


There is no cost to apply to the program. If selected, there is a class member tuition fee of $4,500 (plus tax, if applicable, for a total of $4,793), which can be paid in four installments during the program. Payment is accepted by check or credit card.

  • June 2023 $1,200
  • November 2023 $1,200
  • July 2024 $1,200
  • December 2024 $1,000 and tax (total $1,193)

Class member tuition covers approximately 20 to 25 percent of the total cost to provide the program, with the balance paid by corporations and associations who share our vision for strong leadership, and alumni and supporters of SDARL. Financial assistance may be available to help those selected offset their tuition.

SDARL pays for hotel rooms when part of a seminar, airfare to and from the National and International Seminars, bus transportation during a seminar, and most meals incurred during seminars.

The cost of getting to and from each seminar or a hub airport is not included in class member tuition. There may be some meals not paid by SDARL, transportation or other minor incidental costs, and gratuities for professional drivers and tour guides. Participants will be notified in advance of these occasions.


Each person selected for the program will be expected to adhere to the SDARL Policy Manual, which is based on a fundamental respect for each other, the advancement of each member’s leadership education, and the reputation of the SDARL program. Major components of the Policy Manual are as follows. (If you wish to review the Policy Manual in its entirety, please contact the SDARL Program Director).

Professional Attitude

Participants are investing time and money in their participation, as is the SDARL Foundation and those who invest in the Foundation. Participants are expected to have an open mind, a willingness to learn and grow, to function as a team player, respect for opinions that may differ from their own, and a commitment to greater service to the betterment of agriculture and rural communities.


As an ambassador for the agricultural industry of South Dakota and as a representative of the SDARL program, each member is expected to conduct oneself with integrity and in an appropriate manner befitting a leader. Behavior displayed during seminars, both during sessions and during unscheduled time, should be a positive reflection on the SDARL program. Alcoholic beverages will not be consumed during official seminar activities, and intoxication or tardiness due to alcohol are not accepted. The use of tobacco or vaping products during indoor meetings or class activities also is not permitted.


Attendance at all seminars is a priority concern of the SDARL Board of Directors resulting in specific guidelines and disciplinary action in cases of unexcused absences. Obviously, some latitude is granted for personal or family emergencies or serious illness.


As with any business or distinguished program, participants should always present themselves in a professional manner. Participants are expected to dress in Business Formal or Business Casual attire as specified on the agenda for most seminar days, with less formal attire required for site tours or special weather conditions. Jeans are permitted only when specified on the agenda. Field or farm attire is not appropriate.

Vaccination Status

SDARL prioritizes the health and safety of our class while recognizing that health decisions are a personal matter. SDARL does not require COVID-19 vaccination for selection to the program. However, applicants should be aware that their vaccination status may affect their ability to participate in some educational and travel experiences. SDARL will respectfully abide by all masking requirements and guidelines of our seminar locations and the sites we visit. While some seminar activities may be available to excused class members via teleconference or videoconference, SDARL does not guarantee that these will be available. SDARL will not provide a make-up seminar or tuition refund to any class member for any seminar absences.

Travel and Roommates

To reduce program expenses and promote conversation and friendship between class members, SDARL will assign same-sex roommates for each hotel night provided by the program. Class members are expected to stay with the roommate assigned, and to stay at the hotel even if the seminar location is close to home. Lodging is provided for seminar nights; if class members wish to come early or stay late, that will be at his/her expense.

Fundraising Participation

Each SDARL class holds a fundraising event at the end of the program to contribute toward the expenses for the next SDARL class. Each class member is expected to participate in the effort to produce the event as a gesture of support towards the future of the SDARL program, regardless of any other personal or professional fundraising obligations.