Blog Update
If I’m honest, the bustling metropolis of Washington D.C. is not a place I once equated with effectively telling the story of sustainable agriculture. When I left the crowded airport to ride a crowded metro to find our hotel on a crowded city street, I thought to myself, “What does this have to do with agriculture?” No farms. No dirt. Definitely no cows.
Blog Update
Think back to your grade school days: when someone asked you what you wanted to be when you grew up, was it easy to reply with an answer? Maybe you were considering a career as a firefighter, doctor, nurse, teacher or an astronaut. As you grew up, did those dreams change?
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 2017 – 2018 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 2016 – 2017, the program runs from August 2016 to October 2017. Students will apply from August 25 – October 31 for the following year. Applicants will be interviewed in November and Emerging Leader selections will be announced in December 2016. The internship portion extends from May 2017 through August 2017.

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. 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 six universities are partners in the 2016 – 2017 Global Food Challenge:

  • Iowa State University
  • Northwestern University
  • Purdue University
  • The George Washington University
  • 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 challenge assignments and a team project during the school year.

While assignments differ each year, these examples are from the 2015 – 2016 program:

  • In assignment 1, students familiarize themselves with Land O’Lakes and examine the feasibility of the ideas they proposed in their application.
  • In assignment 2, students plan and host a campus event, panel discussion or activity designed to educate others about food security.
  • In assignment 3, students are asked to collaborate with other Emerging Leaders on a team project. The team project will be presented at the Global Food Challenge Summit.

Assignments are collaborative and include on-campus initiatives such as campus or community speaking engagements related to the Global Food Challenge experience.


  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