Day 1:

The participants of Class XI, together with educator Toby Spanier and Exec. Dir. Olga Brouwer, traveled to Washington, D.C. on Sunday evening, November 14, 2021. An uneventful flight was followed by a shared drive or metro ride to the Phoenix Park Hotel late in the evening. All were ready for a night’s sleep and diving deep into the seminar content on Monday morning. Extension educator Christy Kallevig, who planned most of the seminar, supports the seminar from Minnesota with continued planning and readjusting the seminar to our hosts and speakers. A great start!

Day 2:

MARL class XI hit the ground running in DC today, for our first day in DC! Met with American Farm Bureau Federation and learned a plethora of knowledge about working AG policy and working with ‘the hill’.

Advocacy Training

Tom Donnelly, Director, Grassroots Program Development

Welcome to Washington

Ryan Yates, Managing Director, Public Policy

Policy Briefings

Climate – Andrew Walmsley, Senior Director Congressional Relations

Taxes – Dustin Sherer, Director, Congressional Relations

Trade – Dave Salmonsen, Senior Director, Congressional Relations

Broadband and Infrastructure – Emily Buckman, Director Congressional Relations

Overview of AFBF and Office Tour

Congressional Insights Simulation

The latter was a highly interactive game, facilitated by Thom Donnelly, Director, Grassroots Program Development and colleagues. It simulated the many dilemmas and choices congress members have to navigate. A great way to quickly get a feel of “stepping into the shoes” of our legislators, in an active way. Fun!

We ended the day meeting with Senator Tina Smith, her senior agricultural staff Adam Schiff and others,  and heard about her path to Washington and her leadership style. Senator Smith shared leadership lessons and -experiences, such as: “Lead by Example”, “Have fun”, “be humble”, “admit to making mistakes”, “laugh every day”. The group particularly valued her genuine demeanor, and her priority to listening, as well as her perspective on team culture. We agreed that Sen. Smith truly created a sense of hope.

Deepest thanks to Senator Tina Smith and her staff team, as well as the leaders, facilitators and speakers at American Farm Bureau for a highly educational and inspiring first day in Washington, D.C.!


Can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings!

Submitted by Shannon Gegner, Class XI and Olga Brouwer, Exec. Dir. MARL.




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