Friday, the last day of the seminar, started off back on the University of Minnesota, Crookston campus in Bede ballroom. We started off talking about different conflicts with the people at our table and all had great discussions.


At 8:30 a.m. our classmate, Mark, introduced our panel that we would be meeting with today which included, Joan Lee, Owner of Mark & Joan Dairy, a Polk County Commissioner, and a MARL class VII alumna. The second panelist was Bruce Cox, Clearwater County Land Commissioner and MARL class II alumnus. Third we had Peter Imle who is the co-owner of Pine Lake Wild Rice, and a MARL class IV alumnus, and lastly we had Cam Fanfulik who is the executive director for Northwest Regional Development Commission and a MARL class IV alumnus.

Our classmate, Jasmine, facilitated the panel discussion and it was a great learning experience for all. We talked about subjects such as, conflict, water issues, working with people that have opposite views than you, how to choose your battles, values, and even more conflict.

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We then broke into tables of seven or eight and got to meet one on one with the panelists. There, we were able to even ask more questions and gained very valuable knowledge. We each got to meet with two panelists and I found this very useful and rewarding. After our meetings, each group shared two of the most important things they took away from meeting with the panelists. I found that everyone was impressed with what they learned and gained even more knowledge about conflict and some life lessons.


After that we were ready for our wrap up, I started it with my biggest take always, and it seemed as though the tours from Thursday were a big hit! We concluded our fifth seminar and normally would have all been on our way home, however, our classmate, Chris, was nice enough to offer to treat us to Happy Joes Pizza for lunch. I thought it was a great close to a great session and I think I can speak for everyone when I say we are excited to see each other again in June!

Submitted by Sierra Kanten


Thursday morning started bright and squirrely as we loaded our tour bus to make the short jog over to American Crystal Sugar in East Grand Forks. We were warmly greeted upon our arrival.  Tyler Grove from MARL Class V got our morning started with a video showing the process those delicious two pound beets go through to make our favorite baking sugar.  Once we were suited up with our hard hats, earplugs, and safety glasses we made our way through the factory – some of my personal highlights were seeing the semi trucks being tilted up in order to dump the beets into the water bath, the beets being cut into waffle fry looking wedges for sugar extraction and the control room which also housed a laboratory.  We then headed back to our central meeting location grabbed our boxed lunches and headed back onto the bus for a tour of the outside pillars and buildings.

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We then headed onto our next tour in Hallock, Minnesota.  Our very own Chris Motteberg of MARL Class IX was a wonderful tour guide as we crossed the plains giving us both the history of the land and the current news on production agriculture in the area.  Once we arrived in Hallock we headed to Far North Spirits where we were able to learn from Michael Swanson – Grain farmer/head distiller about his operation and his drive to come back home as an entrepreneur.  Michael showed us what sets his Rye Whiskey apart from the rest – the slight vanilla flavor that is naturally derived from the Rye he has chosen.  Jochum Wiersma, Associate Professor and Extension Agronomist with the University of Minnesota was on hand to educate us about the growing region of the great north. We were then treated to a taste testing of the vodka, gin, rum, and whiskey that is made at Far North Spirits.  Many of my classmates enjoyed a sample of the spirits and conversation.  I look forward to being able to give a special gift of Minnesota Spirits with such a great story in the future.  Once we took a fantastic group photo – which i’m sure if you look close enough you can see Canada in the background – we loaded the bus and headed to Thief River Falls, Minnesota.

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We were able to tour Forsberg, Inc. This tour was filled with history, stories of the Forsberg Family – ask a MARL Class IX member for details on Dynamite – and the world’s best peanuts.  We were able to tour their factory where they make idea’s come alive for machines.  The peanut machine was designed to removed the small rocks and debris during processing.  Denny and Loren were a dynamic duo to give the tour.  Denny, the owner, had a comical approach where Loren had much more the scientific approach.  We then headed out into the rain and back to Crookston.


The Honorable Bob Bergland, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture 1977-1981


We enjoyed a very intimate banquet on the University of Minnesota Crookston Campus in Bede Ballroom where we were honored to have Robert Bergland U.S Secretary of Agriculture from 1977-1981 during the Jimmy Carter Administration.  I had the privilege of introducing him and enjoying our steak dinner together.  Mr. Bergland was so personable.  I asked him what the secret was to his 67 years of marriage and he told me – Tolerance- I believe we can make this applicable not only to relationships in our lives but also to the daily grind of life.

Bergland had many stories for us and was able to share insight on his time as U.S. Secretary of Agriculture.  Our theme for this MARL conference was Community – Big and Small – a final thought I took away from Bergland – He drove a Ford because that was the dealership in town.  He farmed his 600 acres with a John Deere because that was the implement dealer in town.  While we are currently living in a next day delivery – Amazon world -It was a crucial reminder as we move forward in our small towns to continue to appreciate and patronize our brick and mortar companies.


Much Appreciation to our Fearless Leaders Olga, Eriks, and Mike for another fantastic conference.

Submitted by: Katie E. Schneider, MARL Class IX

crookston_33682618095_oMARL Class IX reconvened in Crookston, located in Northwest Minnesota for Seminar 5 focused on Community – Big and Small.

We began the session discussing the outcome of sharing our DC experience with others in our communities. A few Class IX members shared their stories with the press and had their DC stories published. You can read their  DC stories by clicking on the names below:


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Eriks Dunens then led a comprehensive session on conflict and leadership. As a part of our session on conflict and leadership we were able to identify our personal conflict styles through use of the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument (TKI). The TKI measures a person’s behavior in conflict situations and then defines their conflict style as one of five different modes; competing, accommodating, avoiding, collaborating and compromising.

Class IX members happily pictured in their Conflict-handling mode groups, after completion of the TKI:

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Class IX members, Adam Stratton and Lisa Gjersvik work for the Agricultural Utilization Research Institute  (AURI).


AURI’s Crookston office is the home of their Microbiology Laboratory and they provided Class IX an overview of the work they do by allowing us to hear directly from three of their clients; Char Energy, Vertical Malt  and Back When Foods. AURI fosters long-term economic benefit for Minnesota through value-added agricultural products.
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We ended the day working with our EQ-i coaching groups to further examine our decision making process by and the role our heart, mind and guts play in making different types of decision. In true MARL form we enjoyed a social debrief in our hotel lobby after officially ending Day 1 in Crookston.

Submitted by Jasmine Brett Stringer Moore

ALL ABOARD!!!!!  At 6:45 a.m. we heard this call cried out.  One thing we have all learned after just four seminars is that MARL will make the most of every minute, and today would be no different.  We boarded our bus this morning, luggage in tow, and said goodbye to our weeklong home in Washington D.C., but the adventure continued….


Our first stop of the day was the German Embassy.  The first impression we got was that they have a security process that would rival most international airports.  Once inside, we heard from Astrid Jakobs, who serves as the Minister Counselor of Food and Agriculture for Germany.  She started off with some statistics about Germany.  Germany spans an area of 137,847 square miles.  To put a visual to that, that is roughly half of the state of Texas.  Their population, however, is a bolstering 81 million, which would be like trying to fit the population of Texas, New York, and California all into that area!  Currently, they have about 285,000 farmers, and the average farm size is about 150 acres.  With such a large population, and limited land resources, all of ag business in Germany has shrunk by 33% since 2000. Astrid cited lack of interest in the next generation to take over, and urban sprawl as factors in the decline, which although much more dramatic, sounded familiar to some of the hurdles we have in the United States.  Germany produces cereal crops, beets and potatoes primarily, with the majority being grown on the eastern side of the country.  On the western side in the hillier and mountainous portions, you will find more animals, such as pork, and dairy.  Many of the cities will have fruits and vegetables grown around them.  Astrid went on to talk about trade policy in their federal, democratic republic.  Agriculture merely makes up less than 1% of total GDP.  That being said, Germany is very sensitive to the viability of their small farms.  They feel limiting free trade is paramount to protecting their farmers, which is a contrast to our farms in the United States.  The other stark contrast that caught my attention was that the largest portion of Germany’s ag budget went to social security and pension for their farmers.  Germany also puts a lot of work into water quality and improving for future generations, which is what we are working to improve each year in the United States as well.

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Ready to depart from the German Embassy, we again boarded our 6-wheel charter vessel, Academy, and made our way to Gettysburg.  Once to the Gettysburg museum, we took in The Battle of Gettysburg Cyclorama painting, which is an impressive depiction of Pickett’s Confederate Charge on Union forces during The Battle of Gettysburg on July 3rd, 1863.  Once through the museum, we took a guided tour on our bus through the battlefields.  Everywhere you looked, there was history.  Left and right we saw monuments to commemorate the loss, and the gain of those 3 long days in July, 1863.  We passed through Seminary Ridge, Little Round Top, Cemetary Hill, and Culps Hill.  Perhaps the highlight of the tour was stopping to see the monument to commemorate The Minnesota 1st volunteers.  The Minnesota 1st was a group of Union soldiers who had the daunting task of holding a gap in the Union forces line on Cemetery Ridge.  When they took to the field no questions asked, there were 262 of them fighting to fend off roughly 1600 Confederate Soldiers.  When the smoke settled, some 215 members of the regiment had fallen, but the line was held.  Hearing the stories of the soldiers who fought at Gettysburg, it was hard for to not be inspired by the leadership of these men who fought for a cause for the good of all men, no matter how popular, or unpopular it may have been.  And although pushing into what seemed to be certain death, they continued forward, believing in the goal.

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After leaving Gettysburg, our highway schooner brought us back to the airport.  We checked in, reminisced about the week we had, and boarded our final passage back to our homes.  With wheels up, the moon reflected off the wings of the plane as we reflected on our week in our Nation’s Capital.  Some of the reflections we shared focused on how many different leaderships styles we saw, made up by many different morals and principles.  We all agreed on one thing we heard all week, and that was the idea of finding common ground to push for causes for the greater good of all, and making allies.  Once back in Minnesota, we departed from the airport to head back to our homes that differ from one another, but we all shared the commonality of coming home stronger leaders, with a better vision of the leadership legacies we hope to leave.

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Submitted by Loren Molenaar



MARL Class IX started our last full day in Washington DC with a group meeting in our hotel.   We reminisced on our previous evening activities with the other state leadership dinner groups and review our schedule for the day.  As we learn about government, and our place in the advancement of agriculture, and rural life we have interesting conversations each day.  Today we reviewed and discussed ethical leadership and how our personal morals and values are certainly an important piece of our leadership effectiveness and impact.



Senator Al Franken with MARL Class IX

Traveling with our group to Capitol Hill gave us a chance to spend time learning about our Nation’s Capitol.  The history of the building itself, and the transition and changes over time was intriguing and fascinating.  Our eyes were definitely opened more each day to the history and how that plays a part in our present and future.


Class IX member Bohrer talking about the history of the Capitol


The MARL delegation was fortunate to meet with both MN Senators.  Senator Al Franken spent some time with us in the Capitol updating us on the current climate in the session and answering our questions.  When asked about leadership in a polarized government he indicated that “being honorable, hard-working, ethical and having high standards” were essential to his work.   These leadership qualities help him maintain trust and find common ground with other Legislators.  Franken said he focuses on work that is “good for all of Minnesota”, and that he is passionate about representing his state the best he can.  Franken prides himself on being a serious legislator and leads by example. He also joked with our MARL Class IX member Russell Derickson about an encounter they had at Farm Fest last August, even reenacting the scene!

Next, our MARL class met with Senator Amy Klobuchar in the Hart Building Atrium between meetings.  We learned that the U.S. Senate currently has the most women Senators it has ever had in its history, there are 21 woman senators that serve various states.  Senator Klobuchar indicated that finding common ground is always important in her work.  She needs to find common ground with her constituents, as well as fellow Senators so they can work to create policy that makes sense.  Relationships are certainly key in Washington and Klobuchar talked positivity about the partners she has made.


Senator Amy Klobuchar with MARL Class IX


Following our visits at the Capitol we arrived at The Grange near the White House to learn more about their work in support of rural America. The mission of The Grange Organization is to provide opportunities for families and individuals and families to develop to their highest potential in order to build stronger communities and states, as well as a stronger nation.  It was interesting to learn that The Grange has strong ties to Minnesota History in Agriculture and our class was able to learn more about their continuing efforts to help create policy to support rural Americans.

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Following our visit with the professionals at The Grange our SMT groups took off on our Leadership Search activities in D.C.  Our Groups visited a historic site or museum.  On our visit, we were charged with identifying examples of extraordinary acts, concepts or characteristics of leadership that were evident in our observations.  Our SMT groups all visited different places in D.C. and throughout these experiences our groups developed a presentation to perform for our classmates at the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts.

Our performances were representative of many of our morning leadership conversations from throughout our week in Washington D.C. and our personal and group experiences, intertwined with our site tours and learning opportunities. These performances portrayed our view of leadership characteristics that we identified in past leaders, likely and unlikely or well-known and less known, in the history of our great country.

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MARL Class IX has a tremendous team of leaders and we would like to thank them all for their leadership.  We realize these experiences take many minds and hands.  For our fearless leaders and “opportunity-makers”, THANK YOU from all of us.  We are grateful for the time spent, knowledge gained we are all excited about the paths that have been laid before us and for the opportunities to come!


Submitted by Natasha Mortenson