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As an agricultural economics major at Purdue University, Jacquelyn Brown was interested in an internship opportunity with an ag-based company. As an Emerging Leader with the Land O’Lakes Global Food Challenge, she got that and a lot more.
Blog Update
Growing up on a corn and soybean farm in Iowa, Olivia Reicks admits it was hard for her to imagine that food insecurity was a prominent problem.

Conversations that span generations

Posted by Travis Troendle , Thu, February 23

I grew up on a farm in Minnesota and now attend Iowa State University majoring in agricultural engineering, so it’s probably not surprising that a question that often crosses my mind is how do we feed the world? It’s a question that we in the agriculture industry often ask, and the more people working to answer it, the closer we’ll be to finding a solution.

This past weekend I posed this question to my grandpa, Ed Taylor. As soon as I asked him, he responded, “How do we feed the world? Or, how does the world feed itself?”

My grandpa has a pretty cool background. He was born in 1943, and in his lifetime, the world population has tripled. This really put our need to feed the world into perspective for me. He studied agriculture business administration at the University of Minnesota, worked in the Peace Corps, ran a dairy farm for 46 years and recently had the opportunity to travel the world.

This fall, he visited Dar Es Sallam, Tanzania for a study trip. He described a scene of the large city streets full of vendors, people everywhere, motor bikes zipping by, all with at least two people on them. He asked me how do we provide a meaningful future for all of these people? I found this question to connect well with what we’re doing with Land O’Lakes and the Global Food Challenge. Feeding the world is more than making sure everyone has food every day that provides them with proper nutrition and a full belly. It’s about feeding everyone’s desire for a meaningful future.

In a conversation that I thought we were going to talk about possible solutions, we spent most of our time talking about asking the right questions. And by better understanding the question, it was much easier have a good conversation about a real solution. Short, easy to understand questions do not always have short, easy to understand answers.

An example of this resonated when my grandpa pointed out that many people believe the solution is bringing advanced technology to the third world to eliminate hunger. The perception of our superiority is a deeply flawed perspective. Yes, technology will be a part of the solution but the problem is much more complex than that. So complex that a six-word question has not yet been successfully answered.

But that’s why I’m here. That’s why I’m talking with people like my grandpa that have much more experience than I do. They help me ask myself if I am focusing the right question. Does my question have the right perspective? What does my question tell me about my assumptions?

Questions lead to conversations, which can lead to great ideas. After just one, I already feel like I know more about how we can feed the world. So now, I have something to ask you: what ideas do you have to help feed the world?