Land O'Lakes, Inc., has introduced its 2016-2017 emerging leaders as part of the cooperative's efforts to find sustainable, practical and achievable solutions to world hunger.

The 11 leaders are college sophomores and were selected for the third year of the Global Food Challenge Emerging Leaders for Food Security Program. They will be partnered with university professors and with mentors from Land O'Lakes to develop plans to fight global hunger. The emerging leaders come from rural and city backgrounds and are pursuing degrees in fields from biotechnology to entrepreneurship to Spanish to international studies.

"Ag is the greatest growth industry of our generation and presents many dynamic career opportunities. We need people from different backgrounds to make a difference in feeding the growing global population," said Lydia Botham, vice president, Community Relations and the Land O'Lakes Foundation.

With the world's population expected to rise to more than 9.7 billion people by 2050, the agriculture industry's next generation of leaders must come from diverse disciplines and backgrounds to develop sustainable solutions to increase food production by 70 percent.


Land O'Lakes created the Global Food Challenge Emerging Leaders for Food Security fellowship in 2014 to engage future leaders in the challenges and opportunities facing agriculture in the coming decades. For the program's third year, the 2016-2017 Emerging Leaders for Food Security are: Audrey Sebastian (Eden Prairie, Minn.), Katie Atkins (Inver Grove Heights, Minn.), Rachel Anderson (Ferryville, Wis.) and Peri Warren (Minneapolis, Minn.) attending the University of Minnesota; Erica Timmons (Lebanon, Ind.) and Margaret Hegwood (South Windsor, Conn.) attending Purdue University; Travis Troendle (Lanesboro, Minn.) and Peyton Russell (Long Grove, Ill.), attending Iowa State University; Alexander Fried (Scranton, Pa.), attending The George Washington University; and Deanna Zernicke (Bonduel, Wis.) and Jessica Wendt (Stoughton, Wisc.), attending the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Throughout the academic year, Emerging Leaders work closely with their university professors and Land O'Lakes employees serving as mentors to develop a project that addresses solutions for food insecurity. They're also tasked with engaging with their campus peers on the topic through social media. The experience includes a summer internship spent at key Land O'Lakes locations, including headquarters in Minnesota, a Land O'Lakes dairy member farm and member agriculture cooperatives. The students will also visit with policymakers and agricultural experts in Washington, D.C., and with smallholder farmers in Africa. They will address issues such as sustainability, global supply chains, ensuring broader access to new markets in agriculture and empowering change in communities here, near and far.

"The program was a once-in-a-lifetime experience," said Abby Adair, a 2015 alumna and business student from Purdue University. "I realized how important farmers' work is and that I need to be telling the story of agriculture."