Growing South Dakota Agriculture Industry Leaders

Sarah Hill
January 10, 2019

Agriculture is the No. 1 industry in the state of South Dakota, and the industry is growing at a rapid pace.

How does a state with so much emphasis on agriculture prepare future industry leaders? One excellent resource is the South Dakota Agriculture & Rural Leadership Program (SDARL). The mission of SDARL is to prepare program participants to lead their communities and South Dakota, and make significant contributions to agriculture nationally and globally.

The program recently celebrated its 20th anniversary and has launched nearly 300 graduates out into South Dakota. Many of those leaders are already leaving their mark on the state and national level in a variety of ways—such as politics and state and national farmer organizations. SDARL graduates make a difference in lesser recognized, but equally important roles as well—operating South Dakota farms and ranches and serving on local commissions, councils and school boards.

“The results of the program are servant leaders who are making a positive and profound impact in the South Dakota ag industry and local communities,” says Don Norton, SDARL CEO. “With the myriad of issues challenging agriculture and economic growth in our communities, SDARL graduates are empowered with the background necessary to succeed.”

My SDARL Experience

My experience with SDARL began in March 2016. After an application and interview process, I was selected to be part of SDARL Class IX.

My 27 classmates and I began an 18-month journey of learning, growing and engaging with state and national agriculture leaders. We attended monthly seminars across the state that included educational sessions on public speaking, maximizing your strengths, communication and other important leadership skills. The class toured key South Dakota agriculture companies, such as Bel Brands in Brookings, Lakota Popcorn in Chamberlain, C-Lock in Rapid City and many others. We also gained perspective on different aspects of South Dakota’s agriculture industry that we had never been exposed to before—such as forestry and logging, oil and mining, bison and more.

The class spent a week in Washington, D.C., learning about agricultural policy and meeting with South Dakota’s legislators. We also spent 10 days in India learning about the agriculture industry, exploring cultural and historical sites and touring and visiting with Indian agricultural companies and organizations.

A Lasting Impact

The skills, insights and knowledge I gained during my SDARL experience have not only made me a stronger leader, but also boosted my confidence and networking abilities. This means that each of our clients at Paulsen—even if they have no ties to South Dakota—will benefit from my experiences.

On a personal and professional level, participating in a program like SDARL is one of the best things I’ve done. I’m so thankful for the opportunity to learn about South Dakota’s vibrant agriculture industry and to be able to give back each day at Paulsen by leading ag.

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