“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.
Last time, we explored what participants in the 2019 Land O’Lakes Global Food Challenge Emerging Leaders Program learned and how they planned to put those learnings into practice. Here, the Emerging Leaders talk about what made the biggest impressions on them during their travels.
The Land O’Lakes Global Food Challenge Emerging Leaders Program has wrapped for 2019. Our six Emerging Leaders had the opportunity to learn about agricultural policy through visits to the Minnesota State Legislature; to work with agricultural cooperatives in the U.S. heartland; and take a life-changing trip to Africa to learn more about agricultural practices and see firsthand the ways farmers there are combating food insecurity. They also received a valuable grounding in leadership skills through working with individual mentors from a Fortune 200 business.
When I received an offer to intern with Land O’Lakes, Inc., I had to stop and do a double take. For a guy who has grown up in the beef world, the idea of a “dairy thing” was a little out of my comfort zone to say the least. I accepted the offer because the program sounded great, but I was unsure of what all of my beef friends would think of me when I accepted a position to intern with “the butter people.” Growing up I had become accustomed to making jokes about dairy cows compared to beef cattle, and in my part of the world the dairy people were the “weird” ones.
When I share with people that I interned with Land O’Lakes this summer, their first comment is always “Oh yeah, the butter company!” While we are “the butter company,” that butter company is one that is a farmer-owned cooperative, which is something I have always found unique.
Growing up on my family’s hobby farm in rural southeast Wisconsin, I developed my passion for agriculture at a young age. My summers were dedicated to prepping show pigs and cattle for our county fair, and the rest of the year I cared for my family’s home-farrowed swine and beef herd. Through long hours of work, often after a tiring sports practice or late at night when I wanted to be doing just about anything else, I gained an appreciation for agriculture and the responsibility farmers have for the people they feed.
Nestled between the Nsere and Weruweru rivers and on the high mesas surrounding Mount Kilimanjaro lies Two Bridges Farm. Fields sprawl a vast 316 acres, with tall, proud coffee plants swaying in the breeze. As we walked into the main office, we were greeted by the sight of women in bright skirts carrying giant bags of coffee beans on their heads.
In February, we launched the Cultivate Community competition. Open to all college students in the United States, it tasked students and student groups with submitting an idea that and helps feed the surrounding community, no matter how big or small.
Wheels up for Africa! The 2019 class of students chosen to participate in the Land O’Lakes Global Food Challenge Emerging Leaders for Food Security™ Program depart Friday, June 14, to learn more about agricultural practices in Tanzania and South Africa. The prime focus of the trip is to learn more about the challenge of global hunger and to share the program’s mission of ending food insecurity.
Serving as a mentor for the Global Food Challenge with Land O'Lakes has been the most rewarding professional and personal experience of my entire career at the University of Minnesota. When Land O'Lakes approached the University of Minnesota, we were thrilled to find how far-reaching this experience would be, not only across this campus but across the nation. Working with colleagues from our peer institutions to find new ways to efficiently feed the world was, and will continue to be, transformative.