Friday, January 22, 2016


The final day of the session began with a session on followership, facilitated by MARL Program Leader Mike Liepold. We got some inspiration from a video of the ‘Dancing Shirtless Guy’ who seemed crazy dancing shirtless and alone in a crowded park until a mass of followers joined in. Through activities and discussion we learned more about the importance of followership in this journey.


Graduation Save the DateFinally, the MARL Graduation Auction team of Sara Hewitt, Sara Preston and Margaret Wagner presented the plan for the MARL auction. It is sure to be filled with wonderful items, and we all look forward to connecting with the broader MARL community at Graduation in April.





The seminar was concluded by sharing individual reflections.

Submitted by Whitney Place

Thursday January 21, 2016

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Dominic Jones, a member of MARL class II and the manager of Red Rock Rural Water Systems was our first tour guide of the morning. He gave us a quick tour of Windom’s Industrial Park before we headed to Jeffers, Minnesota to the Red Rock Rural Water office. The Rural Water employees treated us to donuts and coffee which was so appreciated! Mr. Jones walked us through a presentation of their system. I was very impressed to see the extent of the connections across all the communities in the area. They supply water through 2000 miles of pipeline to residents, businesses and livestock.

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Les Anderson, MARL class I also shared some information about the system to our class. Mr. Jones and Mr. Anderson took us on a tour of the Lake Augusta water treatment plant nearby.


Scott Austin, MN Soybean Processors

The next stop was at the Minnesota Soybean Processor Plant in Brewster, Minnesota. Scott Austin presented on the plant, and the industry of soybean products and byproducts. This plant is a coop that was founded by farmers and produces a variety of soybean products that are traded globally.


While in Brewster we toured the fertilizer plant nearby. Denny Weber gave us a tour of the plant, including a walk along the catwalk above the storage facility. Mr. Weber explained how they use computers to maximize efficiency in their plant. He also spoke to safety measures taken by their plant and the fertilizer industry.


Brad Hellinga, JBS and Company


The most interesting part of the tour for me was visiting the JBS pork processing plant in Worthington, Minnesota. JBS staff treated us to a pork chop lunch while presenting about their facility. JBS is owned by a Brazilian family and is a large global company. The Worthington facility employs 2200 people that speak 56 languages. They supply food to 80 million people each week in 26 countries. They have a number of initiatives to retain and continue training employees at their facility.img_6366_24523029826_o

The banquet was held in Windom with keynote speaker Colleen Landkamer, Minnesota State Director of USDA Rural Development. Colleen had a message of the importance of coalition-building and cooperative efforts in public policy- especially for rural-based organizations and communities. Her strong leadership in Minnesota was made evident as she eloquently used the plot of Wizard of Oz to demonstrate the success that can be found through collaboration, complete with ruby pumps!


Keynote: Colleen Landkamer, State Director USDA Rural Development


SMT* Askegaard: thumbs up with Class V banquet emcees Don Buhl and Matt Wolle (SMT = Seminar Management Team)

img_6377_24466874091_oSubmitted by Whitney Place

Wednesday January 20, 2016

Windom sign

The last regular seminar of MARL Class VIII took place in Windom, Minnesota. I grew up about fifteen miles away and it was especially interesting for me to take a closer look at the agricultural and rural communities in which I lived, as well as to see the changes that have taken place during my time away. The theme of this session was diversity, something in which rural and agricultural leaders must be well informed as we continue to work in a global industry and as the demographics of our own communities continue to shift.

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We opened the session with a training with Peter Campion, a graduate student in Organizational Leadership and Policy Development at the University of Minnesota. Peter emphasized the need to recognize the different lenses that are used by people from different cultures, races, and worldviews. He began his training with an activity using the photos from Istvan Banyai’s Zoom. Each classmate was given a different drawing from the book. When we had only our own image to give perspective, our view of the story told by the images was very narrow and incomplete. When we could see the images of everyone else, the story became connected in a way that none of us could have imagined with only our own image.

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Mr. Campion taught us about culture and values through additional activities and discussions. He challenged us to identify behaviors in our lives that are representative of our own values and assumptions and to be aware of how this creates our own lens through which we view others.

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Nathan and Nhi Hay thanked by Yolanda Cotterall

The rest of Day 1 was committed to preparation to our international seminar. Excitement rippled through the class as we finally got to learn what we would be experiencing in Vietnam. I, for one, am thrilled that there is an option to go kayaking! Nathan and Nhi Hay gave a very informative presentation to the group about their experiences in Vietnam. Nathan lived in Vietnam for two years while working for Cargill, during which time he met Nhi. Their presentation about the history of the country, the culture, the foods, and traffic patterns was so helpful to us all as we prepare for the trip.

Submitted by Whitney Place