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. She administers the program from the MARL office at SMSU, Marshall.

Christy Kallevig (since 2017) and Toby Spanier (since 2019), Leadership Extension Specialists with University of Minnesota Extension, serve as the Program Leaders. They provide expertise in curriculum development and delivery. Both Christy’s and Toby’s offices are based at the U of MN Extension Regional Office in Mankato. They followed founding Program Leader Mike Liepold, and Eriks Dunens in their role.

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