In 1998, Southwest Minnesota State University engaged the Humphrey Institute and Extension at the University of Minnesota in a two-year research and development project. Their study led to the development of a two-year program plan and the first MARL class was selected in 2000 with the first MARL seminar in November of that year. Since then, new classes have begun every two years. Today, MARL is known throughout the state as the premier agriculture and rural leadership development program.

Tim Alcorn served as the founding Executive Director of MARL from its inception until March 2011, when he accepted another assignment at Southwest Minnesota State University. Dan Hoffman continued to lead MARL from January, 2012 until his retirement in January 2015. Olga Reuvekamp was named Executive Director in March 2015 and served in that role until October, 2022. Brad Schloesser, MARL Class XII Alumni administers the program today from the MARL office at SMSU, Marshall, he began in the new role in December, 2022. He currently is supporting MARL Class Members, Alumni and Sponsors and promoting agriculture industry, leadership and rural community vitality in this role. Brad works virtually from wherever agriculutural events are being conducted in an effort to support the best agriculuture & rural leadership program for our state.

Toby Spanier (since 2019), Leadership Extension Specialist with University of Minnesota Extension, serves as the current Program Leader. Prior to that Christy Kallevig (2018-2022) was teamed with Toby as co-program leaders and they provided expertise in curriculum development and delivery. Toby’s office is based at the U of MN Extension Regional Office in Willmar. They followed founding Program Leader Mike Liepold, and Eriks Dunens in their role. Brad and Toby work collaboratively in support of the MARL Program. A unique and productive fit for the two systems that support MARL cooperatively – Southwest Minnesota State University – an institution of Minnesota State Colleges & Universities and the University of Minnesota Extension Program.

Advice and guidance of MARL is directed by its Board of Directors.