Our final day for Seminar 2 was held at the MERIT Center in Marshall. MERIT Center stands for Minnesota Emergency Response & Industrial Training Center and is a state-of-the-art facility that houses classrooms, training facilities for emergency personnel, and the various equipment needed for chemical and hazardous response units. We had to opportunity to tour the Center and take advantage of the classroom spaces for our group and breakout sessions. To our great surprise, instructors from the Marshall Police Department came over and demonstrated the Firearms – and Driving Simulators.

The topic of the day was Media Communications. We heard from Paula Mohr, editor of the Farmer Magazine, on how to write an effective letter to the editor. We were given the task of writing such a letter to be sent to Paula for critique. You may see a few of our letters published in the Farmer magazine or our local newspapers. One thing that stood out to me was how we should also be writing thank you letters or expressing kudos for good coverage instead of just letters surrounding more serious issues.

Next Paula helped us prepare for our media interview training. Paula worked with Kristin Harner, Public Relations Director for the Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation, on the basics of a media interview. The formula of 27/9/3 helped to make us aware of how we need to be concise with our statements. 27 words, 9 seconds, 3 points should be our goal. It was good to hear from Paula’s perspective as an interviewer on a few do’s and don’ts that can affect how a story runs, and how “no comment” really is a comment.

We split into four groups to practice being interviewed on camera. A huge thank you goes out to Paula Mohr, Matt Widboom, Adam Ulbricht, and Ryan Wendland for helping with the interview portion of the day! In our groups, we took turns running the video camera, timing the interview, writing observations about the interviewee, and being interviewed. It can be intimidating to do a filmed interview, but it is valuable to be able to watch yourself later and see the areas where you can improve. It may take me a little bit to work up the courage to watch myself, but it can only make me better…right?

Seminar 2 ended in the afternoon with our Golden Nuggets wrap-up. I love this part of the day and hearing how my classmates were impacted by everything that happened during our time together.  Even though I leave the Seminar mentally tired, I’m also super excited for the next one.

Thank you for sharing in our journey! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you!

Carolyn Olson, Cottonwood, MN – MARL Class X


On day 2 of our Marshall MARL session we had the pleasure of traveling to Brookings, SD for a joint session with the South Dakota Agriculture and Rural Leadership (SDARL) class X.  The day started with an opportunity to meet and mingle with the SDARL class at McCrory Gardens in Brookings prior to settling in for a day with our featured speaker, Matt Booth.  Matt kept us engaged for the rest of the morning and into the afternoon with his “Tell me something good” message.  By asking people to “Tell me something good” rather than simply asking “How are you”, we can effectively encourage people to think about what is good in their life.  For some, “something good” may simply be nice weather or that it is Friday, while for others it may help them think about something good in their life that can help brighten their day.  This opportunity to be a beacon of light to those around you can have a ripple effect in a negative world.

Matt’s attitude inventory exercise, in which we scored our own attitude as well as the attitude of the five people with whom we spend the most time, was great in identifying whose attitude lifts us up and who pulls us down.  This is a great exercise for both work and personal life, and can be used as a coaching tool to improve our attitude as well of as those around us.  A few numbers related to this:  87% of people who work with someone with a bad attitude have considered changing jobs, and 93% of people who work with negative people believe their productivity decreases as a result.

The NEEDS to live a mostly positive life provided some good guidelines to follow.  They are:

Navigating Negativity:  Who are you spending time with, where are you receiving your news, etc.

Energy:  Are you getting enough sleep, what is your diet, are you drinking enough water?

Engagement:  Remember that 20-25% of people are going through something serious in their lives.  Instead of telling them it could be worse, empathize with them and help them through the process.

Direction:  Know your purpose and plan.  Set goals.

Source of Power:  Find something other than yourself that gives you power.  This could be religion, meditation, etc.

Specifically on direction and goal setting, we took time to write down ten goals and set a calendar alert to review goals each month.  We also took a picture of our goals.  By doing this, we accomplished the three key steps to goals:  1) Write them down, 2) Carry them with you, and 3) Review them

Matt Booth, Attitude Speaker


The “Navigating Negativity” formula that Matt presented provided a clear way to get to the bottom of an issue and set a plan for overcoming a problem or accomplishing a goal:

Step 1:  Ask “What do you want?”

Step 2:  Ask “Why do you want this?” at least 3 times

Step 3:  Ask “What’s the truth?”

Step 4:  Ask “What do you want to do?”

Step 5:  Ask “How are you going to do that?” at least 3 times


We wrapped up the session with a discussion on learning styles.  The three learning styles are:

Visual:  A preference for seeing materials in order to learn

Auditory:  A preference for hearing information to learn

Kinesthetic: A preference for moving and feeling to learn, or “hands-on” learning

MARL and SDARL Class X, staff, and speaker Matt Booth

To demonstrate this, we used the “Communication = Understanding” exercise which incorporated visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learning tools to reach the entire audience.  For me, this was particularly useful as I often think about how I can better engage audience learning styles when I am delivering presentations.

I have listened to several motivational speakers, and I particularly liked Matt’s approach of not only delivering a positive message but also providing some tools that we can use to improve our lives, our attitudes, and the attitudes of those around us.  Further, I am always impressed when a speaker can keep the attention of an audience for as long as Matt did.  Many thanks to Matt for joining us, it was a great session.

After the session at McCrory Gardens we traveled to the Innovation Center in Brookings for an ice cream social as well as some information on the Innovation Center and a wrap-up of the day in Brookings.  The Innovation Center is an incubator for startup businesses and has some excellent success stories in the short time it has been in existence.  Melissa Werner, the Director of Operations for the Innovation Center, provided a great overview of the Center and the opportunities that the center provides.  We wrapped up the session in Brookings with some reflections led by Eriks Dunens, using the Focused Conversation method.  This exercise was done in small groups mixing the MARL and SDARL groups, and allowed us to reflect on Matt Booth’s discussion and other events from the day and how they affect our lives.

It was a great day with the SDARL group, and as an SDSU alumnus, it was great to be in Brookings!  We look forward to seeing the SDARL group again in Washington, D.C..

Our day was not nearly complete, however!  After arriving back in Marshall we visited Brau Brothers brewery.  Brau Brothers is a small, but growing, microbrewery.  Dustin Brau spoke to us about his journey in starting the brewery and plans for the future.  Dustin was extremely engaging and was a great host.  It is really exciting to see someone so passionate about what they do.  There were many questions specific to the brewing process, but also a lot of questions and discussion about the process of having a vision and then taking the steps needed to make that vision a reality.  Personally, I look forward to visiting Brau Brothers again and hopefully will have a chance to chat with Dustin.

Krista Willis (MARL Class VIII) joined the group in the bottling area of Brau Brothers, with an interactive session on the MARL dress code and how to dress for success. From dark colored suits to matching shoes and belts, how to pack and travel, Krista was able to answer any question the group had. She concluded with the newly adopted “smart casual” attire for Class X, urging participants not to lose this newly acquired privilege.

Dustin Brau, owner and brewer

Looking back, though it was a long day, it was all worth it.  From the kind welcome and hospitality of the SDARL group, to Matt Booth’s inspirational message, to the exciting work fostered by the Innovation Center, and wrapping up with a really fun evening at Brau Brothers, there were so many highlights to the day.

I hope everyone has a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, and I look forward to seeing everyone in January in Saint Paul!

Submitted by Grant Crawford – Jasper, MN – MARL Class X

This past Wednesday was the start of MARL Class X’s second session at Southwest Minnesota State University (SMSU) in Marshall, MN, for me it was my first MARL experience. The past month has been full of changes for me and my family that have brought up challenges and growing opportunities for us. During the first MARL session my wife and I welcomed our second daughter into the world, our oldest daughter was transitioning from only child to big sister and I was beginning my MARL experience. Prior to the second session Christy and I were able to have a conference call to go over the items that I missed during the first session and the theme that stuck with me most was the fact that Christy and Eriks were going to force us to challenge ourselves and step outside of your comfort zone and into the growth zone. That theme of challenging ourselves resonated throughout the entire second session and started right away on day one!

To ease us into the first day of session one we started with lunch that included SMSU’s President Dr. Connie Gores and Marshall Mayor Robert Byrnes as our guests. Dr. Gores gave us an overview to SMSU including its student body, it program offerings and its importance to the Marshall, SW Minnesota and Agricultural Communities that it serves. It was interesting to learn about SMSU’s international footprint and their concurrent high school enrollment program. Mayor Byrnes provided the group with an overview of Marshall and how important the town is to SW Minnesota and how important agriculture is to Marshall.

After lunch, I was able to give my 90 second introduction to the rest of Class X and then we got rolling into the seminar. Our MN State geography was challenged right away when we were tasked with finding our State and Federal Representatives for our upcoming St. Paul and Washington DC seminars. Christy and Eriks challenged us to set up a meeting with an organization in DC that has opposing views to our own. I am looking forward to this aspect of our DC seminar as it will force me outside my comfort zone and will open me up to how other individuals view issues that I am passionate about.

After a quick class photo, I may be biased but this is probably the best looking MARL class, we dove right into Emotional Intelligence. I have heard of Emotional Intelligence (EQ) prior to attending this seminar but have never been able to partake in an EQ assessment, I believe this to be true for most of the class. I will summarize EQ with one of the quotes that was provided to us during the seminar, “Emotional intelligence is an array of capabilities, competencies and skills that influences one’s abilities to succeed in coping with environmental demands” (Reuven Bar-On 1997). Those skills include self-awareness, social awareness, self-management and relationship management. After reviewing a sample EQ assessment many of us were hesitant to see our own EQ assessments, I know I was. However, after some time to digest the assessment, the assessment gave me a clear picture on where I excel in handling the environmental demands and where I need improvement.  We then meet in small groups, our Leadership Coaching Teams, to start to build our trusting relationships. Within my group I know we will challenge each other to break old habits and develop our EQ skills to better handle the environmental demands. I would like to thank Catie Rassussen for being our EQ guide and providing us with some outstanding information that will benefit the entire MARL Class X.

The evening was capped off by a banquet at SMSU, where MARL alumni, SMSU students and other guest joined us. The banquet was emceed by Brian Brandt, MARL Class 1 “the premier class” as Brain stated it. The key take away I had from Brian’s comments were about the network that we were becoming a part of and how we were already a part of it. I think this will be the most beneficial aspect of the entire MARL experience, not only will I get to know my 29 Class X cohorts, but I will become a part of a community that is 300 strong. That to me is impressive. The evening was concluded with a key note by, by Brian Knochenmus, CEO and Owner of Ralco. Mr. Knochenmus challenged us as well during his key note. For our session two pre-work, all of Class X were asked what are the major challenges facing agriculture and rural Minnesota? One of the most common responses were that we as an agricultural community do not tell our story well enough, which I whole heartily agree with. However, Mr. Knochenmus challenged us to think differently on that issue. He told us we need to relate our story to the consumer and the outside world’s story. We can not just tell our story we have to tell everyone how our story impacts their story and so on.

Grant Crawford (Class X) was challenged with blogging for day two, but I know that we were all challenged throughout the entire second session to take a deeper look at how our actions and attitude can impact those around us.

Submitted by Ben Mussehl – Cloquet, MN