Class XII started off their splendid seminar in Duluth, Minnesota. On Thursday, June 22, an optional tour was offered to start the day. An opportunity to get to understand a local farm and aspects of agritourism.

Farmer Doug (aka – Doug Hoffbauer, MARL Class VI, he, wife Louise and son-Derek shared about their operation and the opportunities that the farm has capitalized on. Such a different business than a row crop farmer from the typical Midwest farm would operate. In such differences “bloom the flowers of leadership,” and on the Hoffbauer Farm – Peonies bloom. Besides running a farm, Doug Hoffbauer a MARL class VI alumni and leader in many Minnesota organizations [MN Grown, MN Christmas Tree Assn, Farmer’s Markets and UofMN Extension Committee.]  I am very grateful for Doug giving back to the current MARL class. Jakob Hicks – reflections


After touring a local farm, we shifted gears and investigated a portion of agriculture that doesn’t look a whole lot like corn or soybeans, instead the focus was on trees. The class gathered in time to meet a bus headed for a Louisiana Pacific (LP) Mill. When I think Mill, I imagine grain turned into flour, however this mill turned wood (Aspen species) into industry leading wood siding products. Brian Gulseth shared his story on how he navigated the lumber industry to his current position within Louisiana Pacific.  He is currently the LP Plant Manager, timber procurement specialist and leader in the forest industry in Northern Minnesota.

Once on site at the LP Mill, we put on personal protective safety gear and learned how trees are turned into siding. A key nugget that learned was about the quaking aspen tree regenerates. Once the treetops are removed the root system will sprout many new saplings improving the ground cover for birds and other wildlife.


After learning how wood can be manufactured into siding, facia and other building products, we got the chance to witness an active logging operation. Not only did we learn about the logging process we were able to see the machines operate, felling & bunching trees and removing all branches through processing. The cost of the equipment rivaled that of grain combines. Jeremy Stecker , 2022 MN and National Logger of the Year, a third generation logger, shared how he operates his business in turbulence economic times amidst the lumber industry.  Jeremy is sharing with MARL Class XII alongside the highway where the opportunity to view actual harvesting – cutting, bunching and prepping trees for transport to the mill was in progress on Minnesota State lands.

We finished the day by going to the Sappi paper mill in Cloquet. At the mill Tom Radovich, the Plant Manager, shared a presentation with us on “Leadership in Forest Products”. He emphasized the importance of always be innovating. Sappi drives a culture of innovation and by thinking outside the box. Sappi is more then just paper, by innovating Sappi has partnered global with multiple companies to bring many products to consumers. Overall, it was an amazing “first day” of a great seminar.  MARL Class XII was provided a special meal of seared salmon and stuffed pork chops with all the sides and a healthy dessert to finish it off – sponsored by the Sappi Mill.  Thanks Tom for the invite, message and hosting our group.


Friday was a busy day for MARL Class XII. We started the day with a bus ride to MinnTac mine in Mountian Iron, MN. MinnTac is a taconite mine run by US Steel and is the largest iron mine in the United States producing over 13 million tons of ore in 2022. James Jarvi, Director of Logistics, Pellet Movement, Technology & Sustainability, hosted us and started us off with an iron mining 101 lesson. We then headed out into the mine where we marveled at the great expanse of the pits and the scale at which the miners work. We even got up close and personal with one of the huge dump trucks used to haul raw ore out of the mine. Next, we visited the concentrator where they crush and purify the raw ore to about 65% iron. The tour’s highlight came at the end when we returned to the mine to witness a blast that turned roughly an acre of bedrock into crushed rock ready for the processing facility. One of our own pushed the plunger (or button, as it was) that sent rock flying high in the sky and rumbled the ground beneath our feet.  It was a “moving experience!”


In the afternoon, several significant others joined our group to spend the rest of the day learning about the Port of Duluth/Superior. First, one of our classmates, Kate Ferguson, who works for the Duluth Seaway Port Authority, gave us an overview of the port including its history and modern operation. We then got to head out on the water on a cruise where Kate continued to share her depth of knowledge with a tour of the port’s terminals. We also got to learn the destination of our international trip next year. During the “MARL on the Water” experience it was announced that  We are going to Panama for our International Seminar in February of 2024!!


After a long day, we retired to the Black Woods Grille to relax, commune, and reflect on the day’s activities. It was a great way to end the day as we deepened our relationships with our classmates and enjoyed each other’s company.  (Reflections from Megan Horsager. MARL Class XII)


Saturday morning was the last day of our Duluth seminar, and it was a tired group of MARL students and significant others that assembled for breakfast. We quickly got the blood flowing by jumping into our “Navigation Conflict with Success” workshop. We learned about different modes of handling conflict using Tomas-Kilmann’s conflict mode instrument. We identified what modes we were most comfortable using and got to hear from others who used different modes of handling conflict. Several class members had small “ah-ha” moments as they learned more about the conflict management style of other class members, or sometimes even spouses. The seminar challenged us to work on developing style flexibility, recognizing the strengths and weaknesses of each mode, and using them appropriately based on the situation.


As we wrap up our last seminar of year 1 and prepare to head into our gap, we have a lot to think about. We have spent a lot of time the past year learning about ourselves and getting to know our classmates. Many have shared how MARL has already deeply affected them and how they see their life moving forward. We also have much to look forward to such as brainstorming capstone projects and preparing for our International Seminar to Panama. I think it is safe to say we all are looking forward to the next year.  Lots of loading and moving within the MARL Program.

Acknowledging the contributions of the pictured foursome below that accommodated the Duluth Seminar and provided material – summaries and photos for the MARL blog during this seminar.

Seminar Management Team: [LtoR] Kelly Heather, Megan Horsager, Jake Vlaminck, Jakob Hicks



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