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Matt Widboom, MARL Class I

Published Friday, July 26, 2019
Matt Widboom, MARL Class I
Matt Widboom, MARL Class I

Note: This is the sixth in a series of articles about Minnesota Agriculture and Rural Leadership (MARL) alumni leading up to the 20th anniversary of the program.

“Stop looking around for somebody else to get involved and try to make a difference. If you have a complaint, you need to bring a solution to try to improve it for everybody,” Matt Widboom, MARL Class I, recalls as an important take-away for him regarding his MARL experience.

Widboom and his wife, Teresa, raise four children on their 3rd generation farm north of Worthington, Minn., where they are active in many community organizations.

Although Widboom was involved in local committees prior to MARL, it was MARL which piqued his interest in elected positions. While he remained active in church committees and the United Way, he also became active in the Rock-Nobles Cattleman, Nobles County Corn & Soybean Growers, Minnesota Soybean Growers Association (MSGA), and, more recently, he was elected as a county commissioner.

Because Widboom was part of the inaugural MARL class, which began in 2000, he learned about MARL from a press release announcing the new program. His employer at the local radio station encouraged him to apply. He could travel around the state and give reports as the program seminars moved to new locations. “There was always somebody to interview; it was easy to be involved and be in the MARL program,” he recalls.

One of the most valuable skills Widboom gained from MARL was learning how to listen effectively. “Listening involves follow-up. You must ask yourself, ‘how can I improve on that or how can I help solve that problem?’”

Listening isn’t always easy or prominent in our daily lives, so practice is needed. Widboom jokes, “My wife tells me I am always interviewing people, even when I am just supposed to be relaxing.  She is probably right, but I have a sincere interest in what other people are doing and what makes them tick.”

MARL provided Widboom with his first chance to travel internationally, to the Chilean Mountains, where he learned more about their agricultural community. Although traveling internationally was unforgettable, he also credits MARL for the opportunity to get to know all aspects of Minnesota agriculture. He appreciated observing wild rice production and the forestry of northern Minnesota, touring Renville county where he first learned of sugar beets, and lobbying in St. Paul where he learned how the legislative process works.

“Those events were foundation building to me when I reflect where I started and where I am today,” he said.  

MARL created a “Live to Give” mentality in Widboom. “Whether I am in a leadership position or volunteering at a local fundraising event, I work on this encompassing mentality.” He understands the role MARL played in this belief and lifestyle. Widboom advises, “We are put here to leave it all behind and to have a chance to make an impact.  It isn’t about us; it is the impact and improvement we can make in so many different ways. It is all about a positive attitude and how we give back to our community.”

To those considering MARL, Widboom encourages them to just do it. He stresses, “It is never a perfect time. We are always busy and there is always something else that can be done. However, this is a two-year commitment which sets you up for a lifetime of impact; don’t overthink it, just fill out the application.”

 

Learn more about the MARL Program at www.MARLProgram.org

 

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