Reflections on a grateful introduction to agricultureShare
I drink skim milk, occasionally pay $5 for a specialty cup of coffee and am a loyal consumer of organic vanilla bean granola. Growing up in the suburbs of St. Paul, Minnesota, the only time I stepped foot on a farm was to get lost in a corn maze. But after chairing Inver Grove Heights’ largest annual food drive, working with our local food shelf, and learning more about the challenges facing local farmers, I saw an opportunity for the Land O’Lakes Global Food Challenge to bridge my Carlson School of Management education with my interest in food security.
So, what have I learned by being an emerging leader with the Land O’Lakes Global Food Challenge? First, I now actually know what skim milk is (it’s milk without the milkfat, which I learned thanks to my fellow emerging leader, Deanna). I stopped taking my morning coffee for granted after seeing firsthand the effort that goes into operating a coffee farm in Africa. And, I understand that I am fortunate to be able to have the choice between organic and conventional food, while there are people halfway across the world, and in my very own backyard, who have no choice at all.
Nine months ago, myself and 10 fellow emerging leaders were tasked with finding ways to help Land O’Lakes feed the growing global population by 2050. Split into three teams, we researched and developed proposals related to developing interest in careers, packaging and sustainability in the agriculture industry. And today, we’re presenting our proposals at a capstone event at Land O’Lakes headquarters in our final milestone of the summer.
My team researched and proposed Land O’Lakes invest in the development of a K-12 curriculum to guide young people toward career opportunities in agriculture after learning that 22,000 jobs go unfilled each year in the agriculture industry. As a leader in agribusiness and a Fortune 250 company, Land O’Lakes is uniquely positioned to offer professional career growth and agricultural literacy development to the next generation, helping ensure the future success of the industry.
Another team explored the potential of using the milk byproduct, Casein, for biodegradable packaging. They recommended Land O’Lakes pursue further research and product development, including the possibility of using this new packaging for Purina animal feed bags.
The third team developed a proposal for Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN, outlining a three-step marketing campaign to consumers about the sustainable efforts farmers have practiced for generations. The team analyzed consumer behavior and patterns, recognizing their increasing desire for sustainably produced products and how the campaign could benefit the Land O’Lakes Dairy Foods business but also consumers’ perception of the farmer.
Through the Global Food Challenge, I gained broad exposure to and even more respect for agriculture. I traveled 22,000 miles with passionate, driven peers from all walks of life, witnessing the hard work, heart and honesty associated with this industry.
As I prepare to return to the University of Minnesota for my junior year, this time is different than in the past. I am beginning my school year with a purpose. I feel, and have seen firsthand, the need for management information systems and the impact technology will have on food security. I have seen the role that finance plays in the daily life of a farmer–and the connection between these two majors of mine. Most importantly, the Global Food Challenge has introduced me to an industry I never want to leave, and a company I cannot thank enough.
Applications for the Land O’Lakes Global Food Challenge Emerging Leaders for Food Security fellowship are now open. Sophomores from eligible universities are encouraged to apply by Oct. 30.