Trio of dairy groups endow leadership seminar for SDARL program

South Dakota Agriculture & Rural Leadership
Farm Forum

BROOKINGS, S.D. — With a vision for growing leaders for America’s dairy industry, three dairy organizations have joined together to endow the “Edge, Agropur, and Valley Queen National Study Seminar” in the South Dakota Agricultural & Rural Leadership program seminar series.

“Edge Dairy Farmer Cooperative is honored to be a co-sponsor of SDARL’s National Study Seminar program,” Edge Executive Director Tim Trotter said in a news release. “SDARL has a proven track record of providing the right blend of curriculum and real-life experiences, essential to the development of current and future leaders. We are delighted to partner with Valley Queen and Agropur to ensure the long-term funding to support this exceptional program.”

SDARL provides an unparalleled leadership education program for individuals working in agriculture and holding leadership positions in rural communities. The flagship 18-month program features 12 seminars that develop the skills, knowledge and character of leaders.

“Agropur is dedicated to the continued growth and sustainability of the dairy industry in the I-29 corridor,” said Tim Czmowski, vice-president of Midwest U.S. operations for Agropur. “We’re pleased to be a partner in this endowment that will provide hands-on opportunities and experiences to educate our future leaders of value-added agriculture.”

The “Edge, Agropur, and Valley Queen National Study Seminar” is a week-long learning event that studies national issues affecting rural economic development and agriculture. The event is held in the nation’s capital with in-person discussions with congressional representatives. Participants receive briefings from federal agencies and advocacy groups working on behalf of agriculture, Native nations, rural development, and all sides of current issues. In addition, leadership class members learn valuable leadership lessons on the Battlefield at Gettysburg.

“The Valley Queen Charitable Foundation believes strongly in the betterment of our communities and our industry through learning opportunities like SDARL,” said Charitable Foundation chairman Doug Wilke. “We are pleased to be a partner in this endowment, which advances opportunity for leaders across our state to broaden their understanding of rural and agricultural topics.”

Now in its 20th year with 300 graduates, the SDARL program is a series of 12 seminars where competitively-selected class members learn the skills, knowledge, and character of leaders for agriculture and rural communities in South Dakota. SDARL also offers leadership training to partner organizations and to graduates through the SDARL Learning Network. The SDARL Foundation, a 501© 3 corporation under South Dakota law, is the management and funding organization for the program and other leadership development efforts.

“The dairy industry is vital to agriculture in South Dakota,” said Don Norton, SDARL CEO. “With the growing I-29 dairy corridor, dairy farms and processors are an important part of the region’s rural landscape. It’s important for leaders to understand the issues that affect the dairy industry, and we gratefully appreciate the continued support these three organizations are providing to leadership development.”

More information

Edge Dairy Farmer Cooperative provides dairy farmers throughout the Midwest with a powerful voice — the voice of milk — in Congress, with customers and within their communities, according to the release. Edge, based in Green Bay, Wis., is one of the top cooperatives in the country based on milk volume. For more information, visit www.voiceofmilk.com

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  • Founded in 1938, Agropur is a top 20 global dairy producer. As North America’s largest whey protein manufacturer and producer of 1 billion pounds of quality, award-winning cheese per year, the company operates nine U.S., SQF-certified plants, including one in Lake Norden, S.D. Agropur manufactures quality products for some of the most prominent brands in the world. For more information, visit
www.agropur.com/us
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  • The Valley Queen Charitable Foundation is a 501©3 charitable organization based in Milbank, S.D. Founded in 2017 by Valley Queen Cheese, the foundation aims to advance positive change by supporting causes that strengthen their community and the dairy industry.

Commemorative plaques were presented to organizations who endowed the “Edge, Agropur, Valley Queen National Study Seminar” for the SDARL leadership program. Pictured, from left, are Brody Stapel, president of the Edge Dairy Farmer Cooperative; Tim Czmowski, vice president of Midwest U.S. operations for Agropur; Jason Mischel, vice president of sales for Valley Queen; and Don Norton, CEO of SDARL.