Thirty Minnesota Agriculture and Rural Leadership (MARL) Class IX participants graduated on Friday evening, March 23 during a graduation seminar banquet at the Hilton-Mall of America in Bloomington.

Besides current class members, the event yearly draws a number of MARL alumni and friends of the program. Speakers lauded the collaboration between SMSU and the University of Minnesota Extension Services for getting the program up and running and as an example of two universities from two educational systems who combined for the betterment of participants, and the state of Minnesota.

Mike Liepold, retired MARL Program Leader, recognized by Brian Brandt, MARL Class I.

Mike Liepold, retired MARL Program Leader, was honored for his commitment to the program, as were MARL board members finishing their terms. A live and silent auction were also held. Congratulations, Class IX members MARL Class X begins its 18-month cohort in November 2018.


Text and photos by Southwest Minnesota State University

Last Leg: Amsterdam to St. Paul

Everyone was eagerly awaiting the last leg of our journey home today (March 1, 2018), flying from Amsterdam to Minneapolis/St. Paul.  The final leg consisted of 25 passengers in all, with the balance of the class continuing on with more personal travel in Europe.


The travel day started with a wake-up call at 6 am and breakfast at our hotel, which was conveniently connected to the Amsterdam Airport Schiphol.  We found out our flight was delayed at breakfast by 30 minutes which gave us more cushion to get through check in and security at the airport.  An observation by many classmates from this airport was that the flight check-in, baggage check and security processes utilized various advanced types of screen terminals and automated gates and luggage handling systems that efferently processed the large crowds and appeared to minimize labor costs.  Once everyone got through the multiple tiers of security and arrived at the boarding gate, we relaxed and the previous day’s Seminar Management Team (SMT) put the finishing touches on their MARL blog post.

The time soon arrived to board the plane, where we took off on the approximate 9-hour flight back to Minneapolis/St. Paul.  The flight was smooth and uneventful.  Once we landed around 1:45 pm, we proceeded to go through US Customs and retrieve our bags.  Only one lost bag out of the group!

As we individually departed the international carousel baggage claim, we hugged and said our goodbyes to each other.  We have grown and gotten to know each other much better with all the time spent together during this international experience.

We are glad to be home and look forward to catching up with all of our family, friends and coworkers to share our experiences from this unique international seminar in Croatia and a brief stop in Amsterdam!

Submitted by Mark Enninga

Zagreb – Amsterdam

As our time in Croatia comes to an end, we reflect back on our life-changing experience. We were welcomed into the country with “radical hospitality”, unlike what we have witnessed elsewhere. The people of Croatia, a young democracy set in a country with centuries of history, hold their rich traditions deep within their hearts and enriched our visit with their willingness to embrace our curiosity.  Many of us embarked on this destination with anxiety, which slowly faded away as we established confidence and friendship with our king (Goran – our driver) and shepherd (Ines – our guide). We have established a deeper understanding of ourselves and each other.


Discussions focusing on cultural differences recognized a consistent theme throughout our visits over the past several days. Croats focus on producing quality agricultural products versus quantity. With this perspective they also embrace a “slow food” concept, which was difficult for some of us to appreciate…especially after that third hour of dinner. The dedicated work ethic that we witnessed comforted us, a similarity that we all related with.


With a fresh perspective on life, we return to our farms described as “remote-controlled agriculture.” We have a deeper appreciation for our own government system and are truly blessed to come from the United States. We often times get caught up in the hustle and bustle of our lives that we lose sight of the opportunities we have in the States. There is a certain level of irony that our trip took us to the city of Dubrovnik, which was the very first international territory to officially recognize American sovereignty.


Our trip to Croatia certainly was not without some difficulty. No one could have expected that the worst weather pattern in nearly 70 years would arrive at the same time we would. But as any good leader knows, you have to be flexible when roadblocks present themselves. Our group took these challenges and made the most of the moment. It is only fitting that our flight from Zagreb to Amsterdam was delayed over two hours after a major power outage knocked out the computer system of our airlines. Like the challenges before, we made it safe and sound.

Having a few hours of free time in Amsterdam can be overwhelming for some. Lucky for our group, we happen to have an executive director born and raised in the Netherlands. Olga was gracious enough to give us a trip down memory lane with a nice, albeit chilly, guided walking tour of Old Town Amsterdam. It was a real joy seeing the happiness on her face as she showed us where she once spent time.


Signing off from Amsterdam.


Adam Ulbricht, Heidi Peterson and Russ Derickson