Everyone knows that agriculture doesn’t look the way it did 100 years go. But, even in the past 10 years, technology has changed the way food is grown —if not at the speed of light, then at a speed nobody quite anticipated.
It’s estimated by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) that one in eight Americans can be defined as food insecure, meaning they lack consistent access to food that is needed for an active, healthy lifestyle. With nearly 40 million Americans across the country struggling, it can seem like an insurmountable challenge for one person to tackle and make a difference.
Global food security means that people everywhere have access to enough safe, nutritious food to eat every day. But it’s not a reality. And with 9 billion of us projected to live on the planet by 2050, feeding the world tomorrow won’t be possible unless we all start working together today.
That’s why Land O’Lakes, Inc. is introducing Cultivate Community With the Global Food Challenge. It’s a new food security-focused competition open to college students in the United States who want to help devise solutions to the problem of food insecurity.
Growing up on a Wisconsin dairy farm, Deanna Zernicke was familiar with Land O’Lakes, Inc. and recognized the value of advocating for the agriculture industry. In college, she heard about an internship opportunity with the Land O’Lakes Global Food Challenge program. This piqued her interest, and she attended a career fair to find out more.
According to the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), fall armyworm was first confirmed on the African continent in 2016. This destructive pest can feed on 80 different crop species, including corn, a food staple in Africa. It has been found in more than 30 African countries and poses a serious threat to the food security, income and livelihoods of people.
As participants in the Land O’Lakes Global Food Challenge during the 2017–18 academic year, we learned a great deal about how business can have a positive effect on advancing agriculture, helping mitigate food insecurity and turning something that seems insignificant into something transformative. Our roles as Emerging Leaders in the program changed us forever and helped us further guide our career paths to an agricultural focus.
When she started college, Elizabeth Alonzi never imagined a career in agriculture. Now, having been a Land O’Lakes Global Food Challenge Emerging Leader and, years later, in a full-time position with WinField United, it seems as if ag has been a happy landing.
While she was growing up, Ariel Garsow developed a number of interests by participating in hobbies and extracurricular activities. She especially loved cooking with her grandmother. In high school, she was naturally drawn to science. These interests, combined with her attendance on church mission trips, sparked Ariel’s passion for helping feed the hungry.
In her high school advanced placement (AP) biology class, Tara Mittelberg learned about Norman Borlaug, the renowned scientist, humanitarian and Nobel Peace Prize winner who devoted his career to battling hunger and poverty across the globe. This sparked her interest in agriculture and prompted her to pursue the opportunity to be an Emerging Leader in the Land O’Lakes Global Food Challenge during the 2014–2015 academic year.
As I sit down to write this farewell blog, I feel overwhelmed with emotion because of the amazing experiences the Land O’Lakes Global Food Challenge has given us 10 Emerging Leaders. However, this blog isn’t meant to dwell on our farewell, but rather to highlight the learning experiences we encountered.