Serving Minnesota and Northern Iowa.

Ready for the MARL adventure to begin

By Janet Kubat Willette

Date Modified: 11/22/2012 6:57 PM

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By the time you read this, I will be immersed in my first Minnesota Agricultural and Rural Leadership class at Willmar.

I was one of 30 people selected earlier this year to participate in the 18-month leadership training program that will take me across the state of Minnesota, to Washington, D.C., and to a foreign land.

I am excited and nervous all at the same time.

This is MARL's Class VII. Dan Hoffman is the program's executive director and Mike Liepold is the program director. The program is based at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall and the University of Minnesota delivers the curriculum.

It is designed to develop the skills of Minnesota's agricultural and rural leaders.

I learned of MARL through interviews and conversations with past participants. They talked of the network they developed, the sights they saw on their international tour and seeing 'normal' things in a new light.

Another told me how it improved his communication skills, both professionally and in his personal life. Another said it provided her with a mid-career boost.

Several people encouraged me to try MARL, but I was reluctant. I am the mother of four and there's never enough time to get everything done.

But when a letter arrived telling me that I'd been nominated to MARL by Paula Mohr, editor of The Farmer, I felt compelled to fill out the application and at least give it a try.

That in itself was no easy task. Not only did I have to fill out a 16-page essay application, I had to secure signatures from my employer and my husband (the farmer), indicating that they would support me during this venture.

I met with my editor, his boss, the Post-Bulletin managing editor, the company's general manager and the publisher. I needed to tell them why it's worthwhile for them to allow a reporter off the beat for three days a week for nine seminars, plus two longer trips. I talked about story potential and leadership development. The publisher talked about developing a network. I received a signature.

It was even tougher to get a signature from the farmer. He wanted to know why I wanted to leave him and the kids. It's not that I want to leave the family, I explained, it's that I want to take advantage of this opportunity to develop leadership skills and improve my communication skills. I want to explore outside southeast and south central Minnesota, the area I cover for Agri News.

He's still not sold on my being in the program, but he did sign the form. I'm hoping he gets more comfortable with my participation during the Willmar seminar, where spouses are invited to attend. He'll come up for one afternoon.

I would not have even considered applying without the support of my mom and my sisters, because their help in watching the kids is essential. They offered encouragement and told me to go for it. It's too good of an opportunity to pass up, they said, and they will find a way to make it work.

My 9-year-old isn't too sure about mom leaving, but the 6-year-old simply said, "we pack a bag and go to grandmas, right?' I'm sure they will both be fine. It's the 16-year-old I'm worried about. No parties. It's also sad that I will be gone on the 12-year-old's golden birthday on Nov. 13, but

we celebrated over the weekend and he'll also likely celebrate at grandmas.

I know MARL will be full of adventures and experiences that make me think in a way I haven't for a long time. I will also miss some things at home, but no doubt the laundry will be waiting for me when I return.

Let the adventure begin.