Blog Update
 collaboration
In her high school advanced placement (AP) biology class, Tara Mittelberg learned about Norman Borlaug, the renowned scientist, humanitarian and Nobel Peace Prize winner who devoted his career to battling hunger and poverty across the globe. This sparked her interest in agriculture and prompted her to pursue the opportunity to be an Emerging Leader in the Land O’Lakes Global Food Challenge during the 2014–2015 academic year.
Blog Update
 collaboration
As I sit down to write this farewell blog, I feel overwhelmed with emotion because of the amazing experiences the Land O’Lakes Global Food Challenge has given us 10 Emerging Leaders. However, this blog isn’t meant to dwell on our farewell, but rather to highlight the learning experiences we encountered.

Week one: done–the beginning of an internship of a lifetime

Posted by Peyton Russell, Wed, May 31

On my first Monday morning commute, I experienced an odd mix of emotions when the Land O’Lakes, Inc. headquarters office came into view. My feet were restless as the ability to create change grew more palpable, stimulating excitement painted my smile wide and, although partially due to the promise of a free breakfast, unrelenting nerves made my stomach churn. The first day of an incredibly unique internship experience was finally here. As Global Food Challenge Emerging Leaders, we’re given the opportunity of creating sustainable solutions to help counter food insecurity while becoming advocates of an industry that feeds us all.

 

I grew up in a suburb of Chicago–Long Grove–and study biological systems engineering at Iowa State University. As part of an Iowa State research project, I’m creating an urban agriculture predictive modeling software, and when not shouting at my thermodynamics textbook, I’m working through engineering classes. With no real agricultural background, it was a bit intimidating at first to be immersed in conversations about food security alongside students who’ve grown up on farms. Yet, day by day, I’m reassured that agriculture was the right path for me. Hopefully as more people become aware of where the industry is heading, they too will join the unremitting innovations of agriculture.

 

Over the past week, I joined more than 200 students who have made this very decision. Interns working all over the United States from different walks of life gathered together to learn about Land O’Lakes’ purpose and values, all revolving around the central focus of feeding human progress. Key leaders like Chris Policinski, president and CEO and Beth Ford, group EVP and COO answered questions and explained what it means to work for a company that moves agricultural innovation forward without leaving anyone behind. Sure, there was discussion of appropriate workplace attire and how to set up your direct deposit. It was summer intern orientation after all. Yet, this return to the fundamentals illustrated how Land O’Lakes maintains their focus of helping their producers while continually growing their company.

 

It was here that I was surprised the most. Land O’Lakes has a farm to fork business model, managing crop inputs through WinField United all the way to marketing dairy products for the grocery store shelves. Through it all, Land O’Lakes has sustained integrity, ethics and promises to their stakeholders–farmer members-owners. Their decision making is done with the concern of how they affect farmers around the country. Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN works toward implementing sustainable agricultural practices with producers. Land O’Lakes International Development team creates programs in developing countries to aid those in agriculture rise out of poverty. This recognition of local, national and global responsibility is what excites me the most about working for Land O’Lakes.

 

In the months to come, I’m most excited to be working on solutions for issues I am passionate about alongside a group of incredibly bright students who are even more ardent about them. Oh yes, traveling to Africa to see the differences in agriculture as well as the International Development efforts will be very exciting, too. Meeting with policymakers in Washington D.C., experiencing a rural co-op while learning about their operations, visiting other Land O’Lakes member owners, there is a lot to be excited for. Even experiencing the beautiful Twin Cities area, where else can you get authentic Ethiopian food followed by Thai the next day?

 

As our first week comes to a close, I’m reminded that with our busy schedule, this summer will come and go. The Global Food Challenge Emerging Leaders and I will use this summer to bring sustainable solutions to an agriculture industry facing the challenge of feeding more than nine billion people by 2050. And we hope to engage more people along the way. How will you help in this immense challenge?