Statewide rural leadership program gives participants global context
Published March 08, 2013
Rural Leadership North Dakota is a statewide leadership development program that includes seminars with experts; on-site tours and presentations; meetings with agriculture, business and government leaders; international experiences; and personal skills development. It is offered through the NDSU Extension Service.
For their international experience, 23 members of the 2011-13 Rural Leadership North Dakota class traveled to Brazil Jan. 23 – Feb. 1.
“One of the goals of the Rural Leadership North Dakota program is to cause participants to think differently based on new information and/or the experiences they have during the 18-month program. The international travel component of the Rural Leadership North Dakota program expands our understanding of the world and helps ‘test’ how accurate our perceptions are of that area,” said Marie Hvidsten, Rural Leadership North Dakota program director.
Dan Folske, a class participant from Bowbells, N.D., tested his perception of conservation in Brazil during the international seminar. “A major difference from our perception of Brazil relates to conservation,” he said. “We constantly hear about the plight of the rainforest and how it is being destroyed. The reality is that all farmers are required to have a certain percentage of land set aside as a natural preserve. The percentage is different depending on which area of the country and what the natural vegetation is.”
Gerri Makay, a class participant from New Rockford, N.D., said, “We had an update on Brazilian agriculture from the agricultural attaches to the U.S. Embassy and U.S. Department of Agriculture along with an update of the economic status of the country from the departments of Commerce and State representatives. Those presenters gave us a good understanding of current events for the afternoon tour of the research farm of Brazilia Embrapa Cerrados where we were updated on research taking place on biodiesel production, irrigation, soybean and corn production, and a sustainable intercropping livestock production model.”
Embrapa is the Brazilian version of the NDSU research centers and Extension Service, an agency that helps farmers improve production practices and marketing skills by conducting research and educating farmers about the research results.
Another visit was to the Bom Futuro farm, which is owned by four cousins who own 34 farms totaling more than 650,000 acres. The operation had soybeans as the main enterprise with corn and cotton second-seeded crops. The diverse operation also included up to 70,000 head of beef cattle, a tree farm, a commercial fish operation, a seed farm, a livestock feed unit and forage production. Their hydroelectric energy work supplies all of their needs and allows them to sell some energy back into the system. The farm has more than 5,000 employees, and its name translates to Bright Future.
“NDSU and its land-grant mission of providing knowledge with a public purpose provide direction for the Rural Leadership North Dakota program that prepares and develops leaders to strengthen North Dakota,” Hvidsten said. “Leaders gain knowledge through experiences, like our international seminar, that help them make better informed decisions about their community, state and world.”
Learn more about Rural Leadership North Dakota at www.ag.ndsu.edu/Rural Leadership North Dakota.
Contacts: Marie Hvidsten, 231-5640, Becky Koch 231-7875