Agriculture’s Reach Goes Way Beyond the Farm for Former Emerging LeaderShare
Peri Warren’s grandfather and great-grandfather were farmers. But as she got older, the distance between her and agriculture grew. However, she got another taste of ag during her time as a 2017 Emerging Leader with the Land O’Lakes Global Food Challenge. This internship included spending time on a smallholder coffee farm in Tanzania; visiting blueberry, hazelnut and hop operations in Oregon; and having a discussion with a USDA official in Washington, D.C., about food deserts and food injustice.
These encounters cemented Warren’s belief that agriculture touches everyone — albeit in different ways.
“I’m really interested in the social justice aspect of agriculture — particularly urban agriculture and having healthy food options available to people in low-income communities,” she says. “Everyone should have the right to enjoy healthy and affordable food. I thought the Global Food Challenge was the ideal opportunity to grapple with those issues and find sustainable ways to help address them.”
The right fit
Warren says her fellow Emerging Leaders each brought something different to the group dynamic. “There were two people on my team who grew up on dairy farms and were active in FFA and 4-H, and another person who was an engineering major,” she says. “It was inspiring and invigorating to see how many aspects there can be to agriculture and how so many elements can play into finding solutions.”
But Warren wondered if the fact that she didn’t grow up on a farm and was not pursuing an ag-related degree made her a good fit. “I wondered if this was really for me,” she says. “But I quickly learned that agriculture is truly for everyone. We all eat, and ag affects each and every one of us. And we’re not only consumers of food; we all have roles to play in helping ensure food security. The most exciting thing about being involved in the Global Food Challenge was seeing so many creative young people being excited about the future of agriculture.””
Warren will be graduating from Occidental College in Los Angeles in May 2019 with a bachelor’s degree in American studies. She cites the problem of food deserts in urban areas as an issue she feels compelled to help tackle. “African Americans in North Minneapolis don’t have the same opportunities to get healthy produce as people in other areas of the city do,” she says. “Also, food plays an important role in other issues, like the achievement gap. If children aren’t getting healthy meals and being well-nourished, it’s hard for them to perform well in school. There’s a link between something that is an educational issue and something else that is a food injustice issue.”
Warren is doing more than just talking about problems like these; she’s actively working to help solve them. She started a nonprofit organization called Busy Bee Foods, which distributes affordable fruits and vegetables to low-income residents of North Minneapolis.
“The Global Food Challenge taught me that I always need to keep the bigger picture in mind,” she says. “Providing residents in the inner city with healthy options is just one way to tackle the issue of food insecurity. But the issue is so much bigger and requires an approach that’s multifold.”
Using what she learned
Looking at the bigger picture is something that Warren is also applying to her professional life. She and a partner have started a boutique consulting agency called New League Social LLC, which works with sports influencers to develop their brands outside of the realm of sports.
“Land O’Lakes and the Global Food Challenge always encouraged us to ask the necessary questions, to go beyond the surface to figure out how to come up with a sustainable and lasting solution to problems,” says Warren. “That’s something I’ve carried with me. Whatever problem you’re working on always takes a multistep approach and has to include multiple perspectives to solve.”
© 2019 Land O’Lakes, Inc.