MARL Class X

MARL Class X finished up their course in March 2020 with a successful trip to Cambodia. In this photo, they were visiting the American Embassy in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Submitted photo.

MARSHALL, Minn. – Minnesota Agriculture and Rural Leadership (MARL) Class XI has been announced.

Twenty-eight Minnesotans were selected for the 18-month educational and leadership training experience. Some coursework will occur online, but there are several in-person meetings in the works.

“I get that question from just about all those who were selected,” said executive director Olga Reuvekamp, speaking of the logistics of holding this very people-oriented experience in the time of COVID-19.

The program features nine, two- or three-day in-state seminars, a six-day national study seminar and a two-week international study seminar. Participants include farmers, agribusiness and public servant leaders ages 20 to 70-plus.

“The quality of applicants to MARL continues to be high,” Reuvekamp said. “The board had a very difficult task in selecting MARL Class XI participants. The program really develops the leadership qualities of the participants, and these are individuals who are making a difference in agriculture today.”

Their first in-person meeting is in late November in St. Cloud, with some online meetings earlier.

Gaining emotional intelligence is a major theme in MARL, said Class VIII (2015-16) graduate Barb Liebenstein of Dundas, Minn.

Liebenstein is a dairy farmer, along with her family and team at Wolf Creek Dairy. She also serves as a leader in local, state, regional and national dairy organizations.

MARL helped her learn her strengths and weaknesses, which led to greater self-awareness and an ability to work with others.

“This makes me more cognizant of problem solving with those skills,” she said. “What I know I’m not as good at, I find someone who is and can make things work.”

With the opportunity to travel and meet many people involved in agriculture, Liebenstein learned that the world is a very big place. Despite vast differences, people are actually more alike than different, she said. Her class traveled to Vietnam to see hog farms, a pineapple farm, a rice farm, the American embassy and many other sights.

Liebenstein now serves as chair of the Midwest Dairy Minnesota Division Board and was elected to the Minnesota Dairy Corporate Board (checkoff funds) as treasurer.

“We hear reports and help guide what we are hoping to accomplish as dairy farmers,” Liebenstein said, encouraging everyone to consider applying to MARL.

About 300 people have graduated from the program.

“The vast majority have stayed in Minnesota and are very active in all kinds of leadership positions,” Reuvekamp said.

While everyone selected for the program has shown leadership activities, their involvement tends to increase after graduating from MARL. Some start their own businesses. There are currently 14-15 county commissioners that have graduated from MARL, two of which who served in the Minnesota House of Representatives, and many individuals who now serve as mayors or on township boards. Getting involved in a variety of agriculture-related boards or organizations is also common.

“A lot more are involved in their commodity groups, Minnesota Corn Growers Association, soybean growers, dairy, beef, pork, poultry and turkey growers, and even the Minnesota Cultivated Wild Rice Council and also in sugar,” she said. “They are just very involved in many ways, and also in cooperative systems. If you look at the regional cooperatives across the state, the elevators and such, as well as the ethanol plants that we have across the state, and the cooperatives on the financial side…You’ll find MARL in all those organizations.”

The following individuals were selected for MARL Class XI: Haley Ammann-Ekstrom, Welcome; Dylan Barth, Lakeville; Quyntin Brandt, Shakopee; Nada Carter, Starbuck; Joel Dorn, St. Peter; Erik Evans, Fridley; Shannon Gegner, Redwood Falls; Elizabeth Golombiecki, Morris; Holly Hatlewick, Granite Falls; Cheryal Hills, Brainerd; Chelsea Honnette, Jackson; Katie Knapp, Minneapolis; Ausin Ludowese, Stewart; Steven Marsh, Gonvick; Sarah McCall, Fairmont; Jessica Miller, Mankato; Deborah Mills, Lake City; Kim Neumann, Wabasso; Robert Orsten, Willmar; Jesse Pabst, Pennock; Kaelyn Platz, Pemberton; Brad Schloesser, St. Peter; Amy Smith, Rockford; Jana Stangler, Utica; Brittany Ullrich, Detroit Lakes; Dan Vagle, Lancaster; Charlie Vogel, Thief River Falls; Roy Wookey, New London.

MARL is a partnership between its administrative host Southwest Minnesota State University and University of Minnesota Extension, which develops and delivers the curriculum. The program is made possible by many generous investors and sponsors.