Blog Update
There are countless benefits from joining a cooperative, including sharing the risk and rewards that come with the fluctuations in the agriculture industry.
Blog Update
“Is this an agricultural co-op or a tech company?” This was a question recently posed by “60 Minutes” correspondent Lesley Stahl in a segment about Land O’Lakes, Inc.
About The Program


Curious? Learn the FAQs about the Global Food Challenge program.

Q. What is the definition of food security?

According to the World Health Organization, food security is “when all people at all times have access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life.”1 It is the most profound challenge of our time for these reasons:

  • Today, one in nine people worldwide do not have enough to eat.
  • Our global population is predicted to grow from 7 billion to 9 or 10 billion by 2050.
  • Increased population will require a significant increase in food production – up to 70 percent more food – while farmable land and water supplies will diminish.
  • We will need to produce more food during the next 50 years than in the previous 500 years combined2.

Q. How can I apply for the program?

We are not yet accepting applications for the 2018-2019 program, but you may sign up online to be included on the waiting list and receive program updates.

 Q. What do students get out of the program?

The Global Food Challenge program gives students a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to advance their understanding of real-world issues related to food security and global hunger. At the same time, they gain a broad exposure to agribusiness, the Land O’Lakes organization and its leadership team.

As Blake Schweiner, a 2015 – 2016 Emerging Leader from the University of Minnesota said:

“Getting into a program like this is the perfect way to change up myself. With Land O’Lakes and the team I’m on – nine other individuals from great backgrounds and great universities – we all have the means to make a difference. We are set up for success.”

During the school year, students develop projects and work with an academic mentor. Then they serve a paid, 11-week internship, working alongside U.S. agricultural experts, researchers and D.C. policymakers to apply the skills they learned in their coursework.

Students also travel to multiple African countries for a two-week study of agricultural practices, accompanied by Land O’Lakes employees and university representatives. For their capstone experience, students present their recommendations and team projects at Land O’Lakes.

Q. Do Emerging Leaders need to be agriculture or environmental studies students?

No, in fact we welcome students studying a broad range of academic subjects. Emerging Leaders have majored in agronomy, chemical engineering, business and marketing, among other areas.

Q. What was the experience like for previous Emerging Leaders?

Nearly all of our previous participants – 90 percent – said we exceeded their expectations. Several commented that the program and the travel experiences opened new career doors that they never considered possible in agribusiness.

Although our first-year fellows are still completing their degrees, all of the Emerging Leaders made valuable connections within the industry – connections that can jump-start their post-college careers.

Q. When does the program run?

In 2017 – 2018, the program runs from November 2017 to August 2018. Students will apply from Aug. 24 – Oct. 30, 2017. Applicants will be interviewed in November and Emerging Leader selections will be announced in December 2017. The internship portion extends from May 2018 through August 2018.

Q. What is the time commitment for students throughout the school year?

Emerging Leaders spend five to 10 hours each month on the program from October through April, while at college. Any team or project work takes place remotely. In May, when their 11-week internship at Land O’Lakes begins, students are engaged 40 hours a week.

Q. What schools participate in the  program?

Currently, these universities are partners in the 2017 – 2018 Global Food Challenge:

  • Alabama A&M
  • Iowa State University
  • Kansas State University
  • North Carolina A&T
  • Northwestern University
  • Pennsylvania State University
  • Purdue University
  • The George Washington University
  • University of Florida
  • University of Minnesota
  • University of Wisconsin-Madison

Q. What kinds of projects do Emerging Leaders work on?

We ask Emerging Leaders to complete a variety of challenging assignments and a team project during the school year.

 While assignments differ each year, these examples are from the 2016 – 2017 program:

  • In assignment 1, students are broken into three teams to brainstorm and identify an agricultural or food insecurity related challenge
  • In assignment 2, teams assess the challenge identified to determine a solution and the solution’s feasibility
  • In assignment 3, teams are asked to develop the solution and build an action plan for their proposal. The team project will be presented at the Global Food Challenge final presentation in August

Q. How many interns have come back for a second-year internship with Land O’Lakes?

As of May 2017, 59 percent of interns have come back for a second-year internship and 30 percent have been hired as full-time Land O’Lakes employees after graduation.

Q. Will an application be disqualified if the video submitted exceeds 1 minute?

It’s OK if videos slightly exceed the one-minute mark. Due to the high volume of applications, please try to keep videos between :50-:80 seconds long. (The selection committee will appreciate it!)

Q. Are letters of recommendation required?

The only requirements are the video, online application and formal website application where you will upload your resume. Step two of the application process does give you the option to submit a letter of recommendation and a cover letter, but it is not required.


  1. WHO (2015). Trade, foreign policy, diplomacy and health: food security. Retrieved from WHO website:
  2. Retrieved from The Chicago Council on Global Affairs website, Feb. 4, 2016.

I am most excited about the opportunity to work with so many different individuals from very diverse backgrounds to solve a universal problem the world is facing.

- Deanna Zernicke, Emerging Leader, 2016-2017