Minnesota Soybean Business

Lessons in Leadership: Minnesota farmers find value in ASA Young Leader Program

January-February 2022

While she looked for guidance on her leadership journey, soon-to-be South Dakota State University graduate Mary Dybedahl applied for the Corteva Agriscience American Soybean Association (ASA) Young Leader program.

She went to the right place.

ASA Young Leader participants attend various trainings on communication, leadership, issues-based training, while also building a peer network.

The one-year program, founded in 1984, brings in agriculture leaders from across the United States. Another part of the program for a select few is four-to-five months of more in-depth training and policy and legislation education.

“I thought it would be a good opportunity to grow and learn more about soybean history and the policies behind it and to grow as a leader, too,” Dybedahl said.

Dybedahl and Sherburne County farmer Nathan Legatt are in the 39th ASA Young Leader class, joining a prestigious group of Minnesota farmers who have completed the program. Dybedahl and Legatt started phase one in December 2021 at Corteva’s headquarters in Johnston, Iowa.

“Agriculture has always been important to me, I grew up with it and if there’s any way I can give back to it, it’s worth pursing,” Legatt said of applying for the program.

Phases and stages
The new class heard from speakers in agriculture, panels on industry relations, various trainings and completed the DISC assessment to learn their top five strengths during phase one.

“I’m excited to learn more about the soybean side of it, especially since I will be living on the farm with Paul (Messner) and especially from the aspect for future careers,” Dybedahl said. “Just as an overall benefit and how to advocate for soybeans using what I’ve learned.”

A unique aspect of the program is involving spouses in the trainings. Dybedahl’s fiancé, Murray County farmer Paul Messner, accompanied her to phase one. Legatt’s wife, Lindy, will attend phase two at Commodity Classic in New Orleans in March. Redwood County farmers Kelli and Jeff Sorenson recently graduated from the program together.

“I thought it was a really great learning experience. I really liked that Jeff and I could go together,” Kelli said. “What he took away from it and what I took away from it are honestly very different and we both got to hear the same information and how we use it may be different so that was one aspect of it.”


The Sorensons and Watonwan County farmer Rose Wendinger graduated in the 38th class. Their phase one took place in July 2021 in Portland, Ore., where they participated in a Pacific Northwest Agriculture Tour and visited with elected officials. They graduated as Young Leaders during their visit to Johnston, Iowa. The program was adjusted for COVID-19, which made the program run longer than one year and overlapping slightly with the new class. The Sorensons also participated in the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association’s virtual Hill Visits in 2021 in which they spoke with elected officials in St. Paul.

Rose Wendinger (right) is a Farm Business Management
instructor. She and her partner, Andrew Karau, farm in Watonwan County.

“I really enjoyed the program, I’m glad that we went through it,” Kelli said. “Anybody who has the opportunity to apply or attend the training, I would strongly encourage it. It was a great program, well put together. You can tell they have been doing it for many years. They did a really good job, made it come full circle and helped you through the process and so I would encourage others to try it out.”

During their time in the program, they realized that no matter the zip code, the young leaders could relate to similar challenges in agriculture.

“I thoroughly enjoyed learning how everyone else is doing, we’re from all across the country, but we’re all struggling with the same things when it comes to local issues,” Wendinger said. “It was interesting to hear how everyone’s learning to communicate and talk about advocating for the issues that they believe in within the soybean industry, because we’re all basically fighting the same fight and wanting to advance the industry in the same fashion. It’s humbling to see that other people are going through the same struggles that you might not ever otherwise know.”

The Young Leaders: A closer look

Mary Dybedahl grew up in South Dakota on a small beef operation. She graduates in May 2022 from SDSU with an ag leadership major, and will move to Murray County with her fiancé Paul Messner, where he farms.

Nathan and Lindy Legatt farm in Sherburne County on their first-generation farm with their kids, just down the road from Nathan’s family farm. He is also a district sales manager for a local seed shop. Lindy is a school nurse.

Rose Wendinger grew up in Sibley County on her family farm and served on the Nicollet/Sibley County Corn and Soybean board for three years before moving to Watonwan County to farm with her partner, Andrew Karau.

Kelli and Jeff Sorenson farm in Redwood County, where they are also raising their three kids. Kelli is an agriculture banker. Jeffrey is an agronomist at Legend Seeds who serves on the MSGA board and chairs the Redwood County Corn and Soybean Board.


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