We started our day with lunch at Lakeside Event Center and Golf Club in Perham. 

Doug Huebsch, MARL Class IV Alumni, Perham native and current resident who is very active in the community shared welcoming message and highlights of his MARL Class experiences.  His life experiences have led him down four paths: Agriculture, Real Estate, Retail and Service.  Doug has operated a turkey farm and a cow-calf beef operation. He has and does own real estate as part of an investor group in Perham that has provided housing for the community.  He is also an investor in a number of local retail businesses in Perham and in the New London/Willmar areas.  Lastly, he is very service oriented serving 12 years as a Ottertail County Commissioner and as current Vice Chair of the University of Minnesota Board of Regents.  Doug presented an overview of the Perham community, highlighting the importance of creating and maintaining an attractive location amidst the Lake Region for people to live, work and engage in recreation.  The Perham Area Community Center, Boys & Girls Club, new school system and healthcare facilities were highlighted amongst the favorable business environment that the City of Perham and County has supported.

Welcome to Perham, Doug Huebsch, MARL Class IV shares greetings.

Following the Highlights of Perham as a community MARL Class XII began work focused on Facilitating to LEAD. Throughout this part of the seminar we talked about what it means to lead and facilitate as well as what followership is.  We identified different leadership mindsets and how they worked to facilitate meetings and committees.  We worked individually as well as in small groups to understand the importance of each of these roles.  We identified skills and tools that both facilitators and followers could use to have successful meetings.  Specifically we talked about 7 common traps that derail a productive meeting.



7 Common Traps: allowing productive meetings to derail…

Trap 1: Letting Private Interests Influence Public Decisions

Trap 2: Lacking Direction and Purpose

Trap 3: Filling Seats with the Usual Suspects

Trap 4: Going “Off Track”

Trap 5: Making Decisions Outside of Meetings

Trap 6: Getting Stuck in Conflict

Trap 7: Lost in Virtual Space

  After this workshop, we were able to spend time in the evening at the Disgruntled Brewery, which Doug owns in Perham and network with the MARL Class, Alumni and some community guests.  Grateful for place to be nourished and network – Thanks Doug, Becca and crew at the establishment – good time had by all. Enjoyed the tour and photo opportunity.

MARL Class XII enjoying the good!

Thursday-January 25th

Thursday morning MARL Class XII kicked off our day with a tour of Bongards Creameries – Perham Plant. Plant Manager Justin Larson took us through the facility where 4.2 million pounds of milk are processed daily. A current expansion to be completed in the spring of 2025, will increase that amount to 5.5 million pounds a day. Bongards has been a co-op since 1908, specializing in cheese making in addition to butter and whey production. Bongards of Perham serves around 250 dairy farmers in a 150 miles radius of the plant. As a manager for over 9 years, and a family history with managing Bongards, Justin was extremely knowledgeable and truly had a passion for cheese production. Justin expressed how much he enjoyed the co-op structure and how it allowed himself, employees, and board members to serve the patrons while producing a wholesome product.

Converting waste into power.

Brian Schmidt and Scott Mattson at Prairie Lakes Municipal Solid Waste Authority gave us an inside view of creation of energy from waste.  This facility is a partnership between five counties to handle municipal solid waste and create steam power.

The process starts on the tipping floor, where trucks are unloading the waste from area counties focused on minimizing landfill accumulations.  After the trucks are unloaded, the waste material is sent to the municipal utility reclaiming facility.  This process sorts household waste, removes recyclable materials and PCB’s????

Once the material is prepped it is loaded into a burner, incinerated and the heat generated runs a boiler to produce steam.  This steam is sold to industries needing the steam source – like Bongards’ Creameries and Tuffy’s Pet Foods, both Perham businesses working in collaboration with the solid waste authority.

According to David Beyerl, “the neatest part of the tour was seeing how they use 55,000 tons of garbage to create energy (STEAM) to process raw agricultural commodities into food” – pet food (Tuffy’s) and cheese at (Bongard’s Creameries.)



KLN Candies:

This afternoon we had the privilege to meet with folks at KLN Brans.  Robb Moser and his team talked about their business and mostly about their “WHY.”  KLN Brands is a very community focused organization.  They are involved in many facets of Perham and beyond that truly give back and also support their employees to purchase a home as well as collaboration with the local hospital to increase local daycare options.

The President of the KLN Brands, Chase Rasmussen, spoke as well as highlighting the fact that KLN Brands does not just manufacture and sell ap product, they do that to give back.  Again, he kept going back to the “WHY” of their business.  Courtney Rooney also joined us.  She is the company’s Dream Manager, with a background in mental health, she is working with employees to reach their life goals and dreams all as a way to create a great working environment at KLN.

We were treated to a great tour of the production floors of candy and popcorn and numerous snacks from their production lines were provided.  Consistently we saw positive employee interaction amongst each other and with management.  Great facilities, a growth mindset, and a giveback attitude were major take away points.


Our evening session was shared with MARL Alumni Carl Aakre, Class V, National Director of the Curriculum for Agricultural Science Education (CASE) a special project supporting middle school and high school Ag, Food & Natural Resources Education across the country.  We appreciated learning with Carl and hearing his journey in leadership post MARL Program participation.

Friday-January 26th

On Friday, January 26, 2024 in Perham, MN the MARL Class XII met to introduce their Capstone projects to the MARL Shark Tank Executives.  All Capstone projects presented were impressive.  Helpful suggestions were shared with the presenters and many classmates had ideas and referrals to share.  Without spoiling the presentation at graduation, some of the topics included:

  • Working with the local FFA alumni program to expose FFA members to them many different jobs included ag.
  • Being on the board of a new Agricultural Children’s Museum
  • Expose students to the meat industry in order to maximize its growth.
  • Working with local corn and soybean grower’s associations to increase activities and membership.
  • Create a MARL mentorship program.
  • Bring tools to Employer Farmers to stay compliant with state employment laws and the Department of Labor.
  • Research and document resources for rural community’s EMS teams.
  • Create an elite fleet of driver’s in the workplace.
  • Restart/revamp the local FFA program.
  • Expand the largest sugar beet competition display at the State Fair.  Most importantly this will include educating the State Fair visitors.
  • Work to create a tax incentive for farm landowners to rent their last to a beginning farmer.
  • Work with youth to create excitement about ag opportunities.
  • Create a social media plan around a Day in the Life of a Turkey Farmer.
  • Work with family to create a value added product by using current buildings and farmland more efficiently.
  • Create access to right sized manufacturing for cottage industries in rural communities.


Ali Bouta, Glenwood                                Nancy Miller, Kerkhoven


Cody Suter, Murdock         Corey Cervin, Darwin       David Beyerl, Murdock

The first speaker was Darren Newville, District Manager of SWCD and is a member of MARL Class IX. Darren grew up in Fairmont, MN and spent as much time as possible outdoors.  His hobby is wildlife photography.  He moved his family to Perham 13 years ago.

Darren’s office of SWCD has 80 grants from federal, state and local resources.  One of their tasks is to work to manage water runoff with farmers that irrigate their farmland.  Dan’s team will also work with farmers to conserve and protect resources.  All SWCD programs are volunteer.  They are a local unit of government and are political subdivisions of the State.

The second speaker was Nick Leonard, Deputy Administrator of Ottertail County.  Nick grew up in NE Iowa where his parents were small business owners and his grandparents were rural leaders.  Nick shared his 7 points of leadership:

  1. Be invested in community projects.  Different people re invested in different ways.
  2. Rural leaders need to be generalists.  They help whomever shows up on the doorstep.
  3. Have 3 value systems:  personal, organizational and cultural.  Know what your values are for all 3, they may conflict.
  4. Focus on most, not a few.
  5. Take responsibility when you make a mistake.
  6. Influence others by focusing on their needs.
  7. Meet people where they are at.
  8. Create trust – do what you say you are going to do.

There was a lot of work put into the Perham session by Brad, Toby and their staffs.  All of that work lead to a successful session.  Next stop:  Panama!

Respectfully, Nancy Miller, Ali Bouta, Cody Suter, Corey Cervin, David Beyerl – Seminar Management Team



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