We started our morning of the last day in Rochester reflecting on the leadership traits of the folks we had the opportunity to interact with the day before.  We were very impressed with the passion they displayed and their futuristic views for agriculture.

We then spent time reflecting on aspects of our personalities we have identified through various evaluations we have taken through our MARL experience and started to develop strategies to ensure a successful and low stress 12 day adventure together to Vietnam.


Dean Bev Durgan, University of Minnesota Extension

Our guest speaker was the Dean of Extension of the University of Minnesota: Dr. Bev Durgan. She has been at this position for ten years.  She discussed the challenging times for agriculture including urban vs rural, water quality, and workforce issues. The issues around honeybees and monarchs continues and we were encouraged to hear that the U of M has one of few remaining bee research labs in country to further research.  Dean Durgan also outlined leadership initiatives in Minnesota, including MARL. She explained how Extension is working to keep young leaders active and willing to live in a rural community.


Diane Tran: Vietnam

Our last speaker was Diane Tran who shared insights on Vietnam with us. Her parents grew up in Vietnam and escaped during the fall of Saigon (now called Ho Chi Minh City) around 1980. She shared stories of the trip she took back to the country in 2011 with her parents and how emotional the trip had been. We then had our round circle reflections and wrapped up another successful MARL seminar.


Round of seminar reflections. Left to right: Timmerman, Mathison, Reuvekamp, Allen, Preston (with mic), Kanten, Schieck

Lona Rookaird

The next seminar will be held in Windom/SW Minnesota, January 20-22 (Click here for more info)


MARL Class VIII at the Mayo Clinic, pictured with Rebecca Hinchley and Jim Checkel

MARL Class VIII started out early on the second day of this seminar. We were picking up Ralph Kaehler in St Charles at the Coffee Cabin, where Ralph (Class I) and Mena (Class IV) treated us to a hot drink. Ralph was volunteering as our area-expert and tourguide.23650731781_89cf4cf8b9_o 23106015913_5ab0628576_o

We arrived at Daley Farm and met up with Shelly DePestel (Class V) to find out that some of the plans had changed. The cows had decided to check out the grass on the other side of the fence! It is one of those days when you have to roll with the flow. Shelly did a great job of explaining what happens on her dairy and working with family.


Shelly DePestel, host and co-owner Daley Farms


Shelly DePestel watching Ralph Kaehler grabbing recycled sand; Jeff Vetsch and Corey Hanson listening.

The dairy has a 48 stall rotating milking parlor. The cows are milked 3 times a day for the last 2 years. The dairy has put in sand bedding in the free-stalls. At first they had a few stalls done with sand, but it was a mad dash for the cows to get there first. Happy cows mean more milk. To help cut down on sand, the dairy put in a reclaiming system for the sand. Moving from 100 loads of sand to 4 per month works well for our resources.


Chad Kieffer answering questions


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Our next stop was to Chad Kieffer Dairy. Chad and his family have installed robotic milking systems. This allows them to do more with less. The Lely robots were installed in 2011 because of limited availability of labor. Chad figured that for the cost of the milkers, 7 years of labor had been prepaid. The cows were well cared for and it looked like everything had a place.


Kieffer a candidate for MARL?


After seeing how robots do the work we turned the corner and visited Jake Shelter and his Amish wood cabinetry shop. Here the old ways of making cabinets are handed down for one generation to the next. Jake explained to us how the Amish community works. There are 90 families in Jake’s district.  The Amish look to each other to make it through hard times such as illness. Many people make the load lighter, according to Shelter. Faith is one of the Amish’s cultural pillars. “Use your God given talents and you will succeed”, was Jake’s point to us.

Our afternoon was spent at the Mayo Clinic. This was an eye opener for many. Jim Checkel from MARL Class IV was our personal tour guide. He started out at the bottom of the system and rose to the ranks. Whenever there was a challenge, Jim met it head on and there was no quitting in him.


Jim Checkel (Class IV); a personal MARL tourguide at the Mayo Clinic


Three dimensional wall art at Mayo Clinic

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While at Mayo, we were introduced to Rebecca Hinchley. She showed us the Proton Beam Project. This new therapy targets cancer cells in a new way never used before. This new therapy is nothing short of a game changer for all who face cancer.  

The class had dinner at the historical Hubbell House in Mantorville. This was the half way point from the river landing at La Crosse and St Peter, the territorial capital of MN. A big THANK YOU to Jim Checkel for sponsoring this supper. All of us had a good opportunity recapping the days adventure.

Chris Hill

Agriculture’s Future – New Paradigms & Futuring


Anna Boroff thanking Shelly Schell for the StrengthsFinder Facilitation

The day started off with myself as part of the seminar management team. This part was terrifying in the beginning, and this time, I was sort of looking forward to it! They say the only way to get better at public speaking, at introductions, at toasts, etc. is to practice – and it’s true!


Shelly Schell discussing strengths with Yolanda Cotterall and Pakou Hang


Whitney Place, Corey Hanson and Nathan Nelson at work

The afternoon was spent (and it flew by) with Shelly Schell, from MARL class 6. She helped us through the Strengths Finder exercise, and we spent a lot of time diving deeper into our strengths, finding out about our classmates strengths, and learning how these have been working (or not working) in our lives. For me personally, I had initially been confused by the strengths it identified. The words, or labels, didn’t particularly identify with me on how I view myself. Shelly did a fantastic job in helping us dive into those themes more and understand what makes us stand out from others, how to be more aware of our talents and others, and how to apply our talents. The ideas for action were also very helpful. Finally, as we got to know not only our strengths, but discussed the other strengths in our class, we attempted to use that knowledge to identify tasks or identify where we might be lacking.


Anna Boroff, Heath Radke, Chris Hill and Krista Willis


Daryl Timmerman and Luke Daninger

I was so inspired by the afternoon. I have a lot of practical tips on how I can leverage these strengths now, and a lot more insight into what makes me tick. As a side note, I went home, and read my husband’s assessment that he had taken a couple of years ago and we compared notes.


Ben Askegaard and Mike Liepold


Auction planning: Jesse Davis, Sara Preston

Getting to not only know our classmates but understand our classmates has been fascinating and really meaningful to me.


Powerful Keynote by Representative Rod Hamilton


Banquet Emcees: Ron Pagel and Colleen Moe, both Class II alumni


Class VIII reflections by Chris Hill and Lona Rookaird

We ended the day with our MARL banquet, which included our first attempt at an auction (not too shabby) and an inspiring speaker in Representative Rod Hamilton, Minnesota House of Representatives. May we all have that kind of passion, understanding, and may we all be flip floppers at some point in our lives. I hope I am.


Timmerman auctioning off a Christmas basket


A crowd of members, alumni, friends and prospect members of MARL

Anna Boroff