We are excited to announce Class XI of MARL. The MARL Board of Directors had the difficult task to select from a strong pool of applicants. The first
seminar of Class XI will be held in St. Paul on November 23-24, advancing their leadership skills and broadening knowledge of agriculture and rural topics in Minnesota, the nation and the world. Please welcome and congratulate
the following candidates:
• Haley Ammann-Ekstrom, Welcome
• Dylan Barth, Lakeville
• Quyntin Brandt, Shakopee
• Nada Carter, Starbuck
• Joel Dorn, St. Peter
• Erik Evans, Fridley
• Shannon Gegner, Redwood Falls
• Elizabeth Golombiecki, Morris
• Holly Hatlewick, Granite Falls
• Cheryal Hills, Brainerd
• Chelsea Honnette, Jackson
• Katie Knapp, Minneapolis
• Austin Ludowese, Stewart
• Steven Marsh, Gonvick
• Sarah McCall, Fairmont
• Jessica Miller, Mankato
• Deborah Mills, Lake City
• Kim Neumann, Wabasso
• Robert Orsten, Willmar
• Jesse Pabst, Pennock
• Kaelyn Platz, Pemberton
• Brad Schloesser, St. Peter
• Amy Smith, Rockford
• Jana Stangler, Utica
• Brittany Ullrich, Detroit Lakes
• Dan Vagle, Lancaster
• Charlie Vogel, Thief River Falls
• Roy Wookey, New London

It is hard to believe, but today marks the final day of our international experience.  We began today in Taipei with a few hours of morning free time for classmates to pack, explore local markets, take a short trip to the beach, or just generally relax prior to our departure.  We began the day one more classmate short, as Ben departed to join his wife in Thailand.

Our final leadership seminar focused on reflections from the last two weeks in Cambodia and Taiwan.  Each of us wrote a letter home describing our experiences, what we learned, how the trip affected us, and what changes we will make in our lives as a result of this experience.  We shared these stories within our EQi groups.  Many classmates had very heartfelt-and humorous- letters to their loved ones that showed the powerful impact that this trip has had on our lives.  We also used these letters and experiences to develop action items for when we return home.

The next activity involved each SMT group creating and presenting a documentary on Cambodia focusing on stories about leadership and Cambodian agriculture.  As one could imagine, the creative juices of our class were on full display!  Our group of amateur documentary filmmakers focused on topics such as the dichotomy of rich vs poor in Cambodia, the use or misuse of resources, and the struggle between traditional agricultural practices and modern farming.  There were also a couple groups that highlighted Dr. Noy’s life and commitment to improving agricultural opportunities in Cambodia.

We wrapped up our final leadership session the usual way-with Golden Nuggets.  Whereas in past sessions the Golden Nuggets may have been relatively brief, the Golden Nuggets from this session were very emotional and heartfelt.  They really showed how we have grown together as a class.  There were many great experiences on the trip, but the greatest of all may have been the lifelong relationships built and strengthened among our class.

We boarded the bus after the leadership session and visited Vigor Kobo-a local sweet shop with several delicious items (and a lot of samples!).  Pineapple flavored cakes were very popular among our group and may find their way back to the United States (I hope this does not ruin anybody’s surprise!).

Our tour then led us past the President’s Hall and to Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall.  Chiang Kai-shek was the president of the Republic of China (Taiwan) from 1928 up to his death in 1975 and is a beloved, and controversial, figure in Taiwan.  The grounds of the memorial were very impressive, and the memorial itself reminded many of us of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC.   We were fortunate to witness the changing of the guard ceremony at the memorial.

As has been the case throughout our stay in Taiwan, the streets were relatively quiet due to Coronavirus concerns.  One of the unique signs of this was the long lines outside of drugstores and convenience stores for people to pick up their protective masks.  Masks are in short supply and are rationed at two per person weekly.  This rationing was also evident in the airport, where passengers leaving Taiwan are not allowed to depart with more than 250 masks.  Though the small crowds allowed us easier access to the sites in Taiwan, it is sad to see the impact it is having on local business.  Our tour guide Jean and bus driver Chan have no more tours in March as all of their scheduled tours have been cancelled.

The final stop was the airport.  We said our goodbyes to our wonderful host and tour guide Jean and our bus driver Chan.  Jean was a true highlight of the trip.  We greatly appreciated her efforts in showing us the country.  Her genuine personality and good humor and insight into Taiwanese culture and Taiwanese-American relationships added to the journey.  We hope to see Jean again down the road!

In the airport we parted ways with John, Charlene, and Krista K as they all embarked on journeys with their significant others.  Many in class found the McDonalds in the airport for a taste of home!  One noticeable change was the number of people on our flight out of Taiwan.  Whereas our flights earlier in the week were relatively empty, this flight was very full. A middle seat for 13 hours?  Get comfortable with being uncomfortable!

We left Taiwan at 8:45 pm on Sunday, and arrived in Chicago at 7 pm on Sunday.  Isn’t air travel magical?!  Our EVA Airlines jet from Taiwan to Chicago was one of the Hello Kitty-themed jets, complete with Hello Kitty utensils, pillows, safety manuals, and even Hello Kitty vomit bags!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nick gave us one final entertaining moment while boarding in Chicago.  He left his carry-on in the aisle assuming somebody would put it in an overhead.  The flight attendant tracked him down and made him put it in an overhead, and then recognized him over the microphone as a “very special passenger”.  He even received his wings.  Great job Nick!

The flights went well, and we arrived back in Minnesota around 11:15 pm.  Everybody arrived home safely, healthy, and only three sans luggage!  (Their luggage will be delivered tomorrow.)

All in all a great, yet bittersweet day.  We are all excited to get home, but will miss the people we met on our journey and will also miss time spent with our classmates.  See you all at home!

By Grant Crawford & Erin Spangler

Our third day in Taiwan we started early packing our things and leaving the hotel in Taichung City at 7:15 AM. Also known as “wheels up at 7:15 am” as our classmate Jay Schmidt likes to say on the tours that he leads. After a wrong turn and passing numerous signs saying no trucks or busses, we found ourselves needing to make a right turn coming down off of a steep decline which resulted in a rather jarring scraping noise coming from the front driver’s side of the bus. After some back and forth, some more loud scraping noises and offering to step off the bus, our driver skillfully navigated the turn and headed the right direction to our first stop, the Flying Cow Dairy Farm.

The Flying Cow Farm is a former dairy farm that was converted to an agro-tourism business with many different farm animals including Jersey and Holstein cows, goats, geese, rabbits and sheep. Just like in the US the Taiwanese people are increasingly getting removed from their roots in agriculture and farms like these are great for showing farm animals.

Next was the Yeshealth organic vegetable farm where they produce about 1.75 tons of lettuce, spices and various greens using 26,000 square feet of vertical hydroponic farming. At this unique farm they have found that the vegetables both grow and taste better if they play classical music. The Yeshealth organic farm was a fascinating view into the future and the potential of urban farming.

Our next stop after lunch was a personal favorite of mine, the Yingge Old Street Market. The class received a demonstration showing how to mold a piece of clay on the pottery wheel into a cup, a bowl or a vase. A number of MARL classmates tried their hand at throwing their own piece of pottery on the wheel. In the meantime I went to look for a piece of local pottery for my wife, who is a professional potter on our farm in Minnesota.

Our last stop in our busy day was Taipei 101, the 5th tallest building in the world and the tallest building in Taipei. There we rode on one of the fastest elevators in the world to the 90th floor where we enjoyed 360 degrees of striking views of the expansive city of Taipei. On our way back down we saw the impressively engineered wind damper; a 5 story tall metal ball counterweight designed to make the building safer and reduce the sway of the more than 1,600 foot tall building.

Lastly we were off to dinner and to check into the Hotel RegaLees for our final night in Taiwan and the last night of the trip. Tomorrow we will pack our bags, enjoy a few more tourist stops and board the plane for our 13 hour flight to Chicago.

Submitted by Jake Rieke

Captain’s Log

The days are long and Taiwan is our home for this day.  It is our second day exploring this country.  We started our morning off with a breakfast buffet that included traditional Chinese cuisine; especially noted the elusive Chinese dumpling made an appearance and it was worth the wait.  Our Taiwanese tour guide started the day by explaining the some of the cultural gaps that exist between the Taiwanese and Americans.  As luck would have it, Feb 28th is a Taiwanese holiday celebrating Peace Memorial Day.  Because of this, many of our stops included unique experiences.

Our first stop was the Nantou Tea Farm.  This farm introduced us to perhaps our most charismatic actor of our adventure.  Our language gap created a hilarious session with Charades-like communication and many “hello, hello’s”.  Not only did we  learn about Oolong tea production, we also gained knowledge via a very detailed and in-depth discussion about digestive and other tea benefits. The old-style serving of tea was demonstrated as we were provided with samples of  high-quality Oolong tea. We were taught the proper way to sniff the aroma of the tea using a special serving cup that was rolled in one’s hands before smelling. The tasting process was also taught to us as follows:  sip slowly, hold the tea in your mouth for 5 seconds, and then swallow. This expensive and delicious tea is grown high up in the mountains of Taiwan.  The greatest quality leaves are harvested by hand, carefully dried, and then processed for export to Japan.  After documenting our stop with plenty of pictures and purchases, we transitioned to the Tour Rich Year Farm.

An insight gleaned in transit is that many Taiwanese tour guides do not like to guide Americans because of our incessant questions.  Jean (our tour guide), having spent time in Tennessee for college, had no problem educating us the entire time.  The Tour Rich Farm is a mushroom farm.  This farm specializes in greenhouse production of pick your own, fresh, and dried mushrooms. The entire greenhouse production area is open for consumers to peruse.  We saw some interesting varieties of mushrooms; the monkey head and deer horn mushrooms were highlights, but we also saw different types of white, yellow, black, blue, and pink mushrooms. Our tour finished with an exclusive look into the production side of the business, where we got to see how the farm prepares potting material for mushroom growth.

Lunch was our next stop. The farm and the restaurant are owned by the aboriginal Thaower people of Taiwan.  These native Taiwanese still make up about 2% of the Taiwanese population, and some still practice the traditional ways of hunting and gathering.  Our meal was an spectacular representation of traditional native Taiwanese food.  Nearly all our dining experiences in this country utilized the circular table with a spinning Jenny that never seemed to run out of food.  The staff would continually provide new dishes as we perfected our chopstick usage. Conveniently, our lunch stop was adjacent to the Thaower Biotech Farm, our next agenda item.  A quick tour of the Biotech farm showed us a glimpse of aquaculture and green production in a sun-free environment.

After driving up more mountains, we arrived at our next stop- Sun Moon Lake.  This gem of Taiwan is a very popular vacation destination for local Taiwanese.  We hopped on a 1973 Chris Craft touring boat and had two stops around this beautiful freshwater lake. The first stop was a Buddhist temple and included a 1500’ climb.  I am happy to report that after a strenuous foot race up the 1239 steps, I secured victory.  The next stop was a local village that allowed us to to see the  stereotypical American idea of streets filled with people.  The energy was electric, the food was incredible, and we enjoyed our quick glimpse of how people gather together in Taiwan.

Supper tonight was our first experience with a “hot pot”.  In this traditional Taiwan fast food experience, each person gets a seat that has its own boiling pot of water.  In an all-you-can eat buffet style, we selected our uncooked ingredients and then prepared them ourselves to our own liking.  I am confident in speaking for the group in that our appetites have never gone un-appeased.

Peace Out

Cordell Huebsch & Danielle Evers

Today we packed to leave Cambodia and say goodbye to our new friends Dr. Noy and his wife Reaksmey.  Before we departing we presented our hosts with gifts from Minnesota, including some Vikings football apparel.  To our surprise Dr. Noy had gifts for us from his work with the UN.

Before leaving we worked Toby and Christy on a few EQi competencies, focusing stress tolerance and problem solving.  In our groups we went over how we each handle stress, ways that we can help mitigate it and turning it into a positive mindset.

Once we cleared security we found Brown Coffee which is a local brand recommended by our guide. We were excited to finally be able to try it and no one was disappointed with the coffee.

After our flight to Taiwan we were able to meet our new guide Jean. After we collected our luggage and got outside the weather change hit us.  The high temperature was 75 and partly cloudy compared to 90+ in Cambodia. While everyone was sad to leave we are excited for the change of not being so hot.

As we traveled to our hotel we stopped at the Tong Hai Fish Village restaurant for a traditional Taiwanese meal. Dessert consisted of fresh fruit which has been wonderful in both locations. We are excited to get out and experience Taiwan tomorrow.

Aaron Vadnais