MARL focuses on helping individuals build confidence, competence, and connections.  The second day of our third seminar highlighted all three of these goals in different ways.

We had many different opportunities to build connections as a class and also with the many alumni that took time to participate in today’s session.  We began by building relationships with alumni who joined us for a scavenger hunt.  This allowed teams of alumni and current members to have fun together gathering items from their home to achieve the most points.  Congratulations to winners Michael Metzger (Class IV), Shannon Gegner, Kim Neumann, Austin Ludowese, and Erik Evans.  Thank you to Chelsea Russell (Class VII) for organizing the event and prizes for our winners.

The bulk of the day was spent building confidence and competence in our communication skills.  In the morning Kristen Harner (Class II) presented useful information to help class members learn how to speak to media in crisis situation.  One of the many great pieces of information shared with the class was a tool to help them determine what words to choose to describe themselves or someone else to the media.  Did you know that it is better to say that you are a farmer rather than a producer in most media interviews?  Thank you to Paula Mohr (Class VI), Staci Martin (Class VI), Pam Debele, Jeremy Geske, Janet Kubat (Class VII), Michelle Rossman (VII), and Ryan Wendland (Class IX) for preparing interviews for each of the class members and challenging them to improve their skills.

In the afternoon we transitioned away from traditional media and explored various social media platforms.  Carolyn Olson (Class X) presented on key facts around social media and encouraged us to think about the digital legacy that we are leaving.  We had several alumni and friends of MARL join us again this afternoon to help share their insights on social media through a panel discussion and small group conversations.  Thank you to Sara Hewitt (Class VIII), Tim Dufault (Class III), Lara Durben (VI), and Sue Knott with MN Dept. of Agriculture’s Ag in the Classroom for helping Class XI learn about Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and blogging.  Through their assistance our class members were able to build social media posts that help us to share information about issues that are important to us.

One special connection that we were able to enjoy was with Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan.  She joined Class XI briefly to share insights into the work that is happening across the state in our rural communities and in agriculture.  She also gave us three pieces of advice:

1) Stay persistent and remember that each of them deserve a seat at the table.  We are each experts and have something that share.  2) Ask for help and invite others into our work.  It is through inviting others in and asking for help that we make our initiatives stronger and build lasting relationships that can help us in the future.  3) Be bold by doing the things that are necessary to strengthen our communities and our state.  We look forward to connecting with the Lieutenant Governor when we are able to hold an in person seminar in St. Paul.

We had a great deal of confidence in our connections and had a new level of competence in our communication skills.  The MARL network continues to allow for unique opportunities; even in this virtual environment.

Submitted by Christy Kallevig, Program Leader


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