Journey to FeeduShare
Toward the end of the school year, each team was given a list of possible project ideas. The initial topic that our team chose for our summer project was concerning how the drought in California would affect agriculture. With two possible paths to choose from, dairy or crop inputs, we chose to focus on the dairy sector. After focusing on California dairy, we realized that California dairy farmers really knew what to do when it came to water usage and conservation. We learned about many innovative technologies and practices that were taking place on dairy farms in California by talking to the farmers over conference calls. Taking into account our many conversations, we realized that the complexity of this issue was outside of our scope. Because we had done so much work with research dairy, we decided to delve into the dairy sector internationally. We looked into Kenyan dairy through international development. We learned about a Land O’Lakes business venture currently underway in Kenya. After reaching out to the head of the venture, Brad Buck, we saw an opportunity that would allow us to make the impact we had been wishing for. We decided to create an educational component to this business venture that would help dairy farmers turn their lifestyle dairy farming practices into business models. This was the beginning of our Feedu Champ program.
The various changes that our project endured were influenced by many people. Two very significant mentors were our sponsors, Pete Theisen and Katy Morlok. Our manager, Brandi DeVries, was also a major supporter. She helped us define our goals and narrow our scope. Another mentor was Brad Buck. He was able to tell us about the opportunity for us to propose a program within the venture he was heading. After talking to two international development employees in Kenya, we were told about the issues in the market that Kenyan dairy farmers face. This drove us to our final topic of an educational program that teaches about business practices for these farmers.
Our program has a progressive effect on the economics behind food security with the goal of positively influencing the dairy market in Kenya. We believe our program will improve the dairy farmer’s animal husbandry, animal nutrition and business practices. This will then in turn increase the farmer’s profits and the milk supply. Increasing the milk supply will make nutritious milk more readily available for consumers at a lower price. As the farmer’s profits increase, it will allow him to better support his family through feeding higher quantities of quality food to his children, and also provide increased opportunities like sending his children to school.
The dairy sector was not a topic that anyone on our team knew much about. We learned many lessons along the way, some more obvious than others. The most influential learning experiences for our team came from traveling abroad. While we were in Kenya and Rwanda, we were able to immerse ourselves in their cultures. We saw international dairy production firsthand and were able to come up with ideas for our project from there. After all of our research and international experiences, we believe we have developed a program that will add value to Land O’Lakes and have a lasting impact on the people of Kenya.
About the Authors: Leah Ellensohn (Iowa State University), Katie Enzenauer (University of Minnesota) and Sydney Gray (Purdue University) are three Land O’Lakes Emerging Leaders who are working hard to find new ways to feed the world using fewer resources. You can connect with all of them on Facebook!