On our final day of the Crookston seminar we were honored to be welcomed onto the farm of Daniel and Ruth Yantze located about 30 miles from Crookston near Fertile, Minnesota. The Yantze family practices the traditions of the Amish faith and they are members of the thriving Amish colony originally established in Polk County in 2007. We were given the opportunity to tour the Yantze farm because of the strong relationship that MARL class X member Noreen Thomas has developed with the Yantze family.

I have German ancestry so the tour was particularly interesting to me because it opened a window into a similar lifestyle that my family lived many years ago. While I don’t have Amish heritage, I could see overlap in many of the farming practices and traditions in my family’s history.

Daniel and Ruth are two of the most charismatic and genuine people I have ever met. Not only did they welcome us onto their farm but they invited us into their home they built out of locally sourced logs and wood. Ruth treated the MARL class to a feast of sticky buns, sweet rolls, jam, fresh yogurt and various types of pickles and bread, all made with ingredients from their garden and cooked using a firewood oven/cook stove. It was absolutely delicious and no one left hungry.

The tour of the Yantze farm fit perfectly into this seminar’s theme of building intercultural competency and exploring difference. From the outside the Amish may appear to have a strange way of life, but even when you just scratch the surface you will learn there is a lot of truly valuable life lessons that can be applied to modern living. You will not likely find stronger family bonds and truly meaningful relationships than those within the Amish community. The Yantzes clearly demonstrate that modern conveniences and millions of dollars will not make you happier and they have undoubtedly had a positive impact on Noreen. Thank you Noreen for setting up the tour of the Yantze farm!

After the tour, the group met at the nearby Bergeson Nursery where owner/operator Joe Bergeson spoke briefly about his nursery and his business. Joe also provided space for the class to meet and go through seminar wrap up and golden nuggets; where everyone shares their favorite experience from the seminar. In each of the golden nuggets you can hear the life changing impact the MARL experience is having on the participants. Many students talked about new habits they’ve adopted, new relationships and how much their network of ag professionals has expanded because of MARL. Crookston was our fifth seminar and it’s exciting to see the dynamics of the group develop and become more interconnected.

We wrapped up at noon and everyone began their journey home which took anywhere from thirty minutes to six and a half hours! The state of Minnesota is enormous!

Submitted by Jake Rieke

The second day in Crookston started with a little hesitancy as we all got on a bus. Will we get stuck in the mud again? Smiles and fun conversations with each other as we reminisced about the last seminar in Washington D.C. when the bus got stuck in the mud.

The bus trip to East Grand Forks allowed for time to do a reflection activity about what we learned the previous day during our conversations. Eriks led us through the activity using a model based on a person’s fingers. They were:

Pointer finger – What was the main point of the conversation?

Middle finger – What emotion was experienced?

Pinky finger – What was a fun, little fact?

Thumb – What action will you do as a result of the conversation?

Ring finger – What are you going to commit to as a result.

The bus arrived at American Crystal Sugar Refinery for our morning learning endeavor. After a very informational video and discussions with a number of ACSC employees, the class divided into three groups for a plant tour. Class members were amazed at the process and really took a lot away from the experience. MARL Class V alum Tyler Grove helped organize the visit along with Class IX alum Chris Motteberg.

The afternoon started with lunch in the East Grand Forks City Hall. It was followed by informational sessions with City Administrator David Murphy and Brandon Baumbach with the Regional Economic Development organization. The MARL class learned about the inner workings of the city and what they are doing to attract and retain a workforce.

The class then went back to Crookston for a tour of the Sugarbeet Museum. Director and founder Allan Dragseth shared with us the history of how the museum was started and highlighted many of the machines and artifacts.

The final stop on our bus tour was at the Northwest Research and Outreach Center at the U of M Crookston campus. Dr. Albert Sims explained what the center does to advance agriculture. Dr. Sims noted that the center is always careful not to have, or even to appear to have, any bias in research with industry.

Thankfully, the bus ride was uneventful as the tour ended back at the hotel. A quick change of clothes into our professional attire and the class headed back the U of M campus for the Seminar Five banquet. Once again, great conversations and new connections were made with MARL alumni, local business professionals, and University staff. The banquet was kicked off by a moving poem from Olga and leadership insight from MARL Alum Joan Lee, who is the Polk County Commissioner-Chair. University of Minnesota, Crookston Chancellor Dr. Mary Holz-Clause welcomed the audience to campus and highlighted the great things happening on the campus, especially with the agriculture programs. Finally, the keynote speaker was Tom Astrup, the CEO of American Crystal Sugar Company. Tom had a wonderful message about the history of ACSC, the political landscape of the sugar as well as leadership principles.

(Class X pictured with Dr. Holz-Clause, Chancellor UMN Crookston, and Tom Astrup, CEO American Crystal Sugar Company)

On to the next day…

Submitted by Shane Bowyer

We kicked off the Northwest Minnesota session by pairing up with classmates to share our Washington D.C. experience.

Next, Eriks led the session “Building Intercultural Competence.”   It started off with us playing a card game called “Five Trick, “ which was a highlight for many classmates.  Before the game started, participants were given written instructions that were quickly taken away.  We were not allowed to speak throughout the process.  Each time a round was over, the winner and loser changed tables.  We soon realized that the different tables had different instructions.  The game taught us many lessons including becoming a new member of a community and not to assume that everyone knows the same rules  We also went through the Development Model of Intercultural Sensitivity. 

Later Afternoon we broke into our EQ-I groups.  Discussion evolved around the progress we had been making on personal growth and strategies for development.

We ended the day with breaking into three groups for a community dinner.  Our MARL groups ate at Wonderful Life Foods (gluten-free cafe), El Gordito Market and Restaurant and China Moon.  During the supper we were visited by minority and women business owners.  Some of the speakers included restaurant owners, a massage therapist, the owner of Crookston based “Real Good Bath and Body” and a NAPA owner. 

Submitted by Melanie Dickman

On the last day of this week’s seminar, the day started as usual with a daily briefing at the hotel. This morning the topic was “Considering Impacts – Policy Analysis”, facilitated by program leader Eriks Dunens. We wrapped up our briefing by 7:30 am, and jumped on the bus with our suitcases, heading for Hollywood, Maryland.

Our first stop was at Hollywood Oysters which is located on the Patuxent River in Maryland which leads into Chesapeake Bay. The owner, Tal Petty, told us about issues that impact his aquaculture farm like such as urbanization, government regulation, desalination of the bay from heavy rains and neighbors who support his farm, but do not care to have it in their back yard.

While we toured the farm, the bus driver decided to go off-roading and the consequences affected us all. Luckily, we just had sessions in stress management, collaboration, and leadership styles.

After the luggage was moved into the new bus, we listened to presentations during lunch, from Audrey Zwanenburg from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and Jason Kepler from the Maryland Department of Agriculture. Their messages included cleaning the water using oysters as a filter and mandatory nutrient management practices placed on farmers. The goals to improve the water quality of the Chesapeake Bay watershed were laid out by both. Audrey explained that Oyster farmers are actually called “Watermen” in the region. Jason had actually graduated from the LEAD Maryland program, which is similar to MARL. He touched on general agricultural production in the state, including poultry, dairy, and special activities around the urban area of Washington, D.C. such as agri-tourism and the equine sector.

We jumped back into the bus which took us to the airport. The plane had been slightly delayed which was okay, we are just hoping it stays out of the mud! Everyone arrived home safely that night and the next morning. We are grateful for the many educational leadership opportunities.

Submitted by Rodd Beyer