Cultivating Leadership

Reuvekamp Olga 1

By Olga Reuvekamp

Executive Director, Minnesota Agriculture & Rural Leadership (MARL)

David and Goliath, a biblical story; does it apply to us, agriculture and rural Minnesota? Are we battling a giant?

Last April I started working as the Executive Director of Minnesota Agriculture and Rural Leadership (MARL). Working with the cream of the crop of Minnesota’s vibrant agricultural industry and rural development is a privilege. The MARL program offers an 18-month dynamic leadership course to cohorts of 30 professionals from across the state. Our members have backgrounds in agriculture and rural development; many are producers. The curriculum is offered by Mike Liepold, University of Minnesota Extension Specialist. Southwest Minnesota State University administers the MARL program.

Not long after my start I had a chance to meet with Tim Rudnicki at the MBA office. Within five minutes we understood our common ground. We seem to be small players in the big world. People live in urban areas, far from fields and farms. Only a small percentage of our population is related to agriculture. Looking at the Minnesota map, our land seems vast. But we are small in number. Are we like David, battling a giant?

My answer: No. This is not a battle. This is a challenge where we will need to work together with Goliath, instead of battling the masses. David will have to be a wise, strategic leader, with perspective.

Strong leadership in rural communities is more important than ever. Leadership beyond our own bubble. Thinking globally and acting locally. Communicating effectively. Building a stronger Minnesota.

The MARL leadership program has become an effective tool to cultivate leaders. Agricultural leaders, including those in the metro-area, as well as other rural leaders. Fifteen years after its inception, there are 210 MARL alumni. Their resumes are impressive, if not intimidating. Leaders, both men and women, serving on committees, trusts and boards at local, regional, national and international levels. MARLers serve on boards of ethanol plants and cooperatives. You will find MARL alumni in the Minnesota House of Representatives. Donating a lot of their time, skills and generosity, believing in the future of Minnesota’s agriculture and rural area.

I am proud to share that passion of MARL. The impact is great, and will be growing as we continue to cultivate leaders.

Learn more about the MARL program by visiting, or follow us on Facebook. Interested, or know someone who would be? Connect with us and be a part of shaping the future of agriculture in Minnesota. The application process for MARL Class IX starts late fall 2015; deadline is May 1st, 2016.

The MARL program is funded by generous investments of individuals, companies and organizations, member tuition and contributions from SMSU and U of M. Find out more at, or contact us for more information.

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