Their journey starts on campus. It moves to a small farm or a big city, on the road and in the field. It’s in the Midwest, on our nation’s coasts or in another country. A day consists of talking to swine producers in Iowa, documenting IT processes at headquarters in Minnesota, testing crop input formulas in the fields of Florida and so much more.
These are just three journeys of the more than 270 interns at Land O'Lakes, Inc. who joined our team across the company this summer.
In 2007, the first year of our college internship program, we had 17 interns. This summer, we’ve expanded the program by 1,488 percent. And this isn’t your average internship—these students have been contributing to our purpose of feeding human progress day-in and day-out.
Currently, interns are wrapping up their programs and are headed back to campus–or the real world–after their 12-week summer with Land O’Lakes. But before bidding them adieu, we caught up with three interns to learn what their experience was really like.
Growing into ag
Tyler Walker didn’t grow up on a farm; he grew up down the street from one in Northwest Florida. As a kid, his neighbors became his babysitters, and they would show him around, taking him on tractor rides through the farm. Those fond memories of the farm stayed with him throughout high school, into college and now into his internship with Winfield US, Land O’Lakes’ crop inputs business.
“Since I was really young, I’ve wanted to pursue agriculture. But then, in high school I started looking into how to combine more personal aspects with agriculture. I realized that I really enjoy that in-person contact and working with other people in business,” says Tyler.
That led him to pursue a degree in Food & Resource Economics with a concentration in agricultural marketing and management at University of Florida. He graduated this past May and, throughout his college career, he worked diligently to promote agriculture as a thriving industry.
“As vice president of industry for our Agricultural Economics Club I planned day-to-day activities, and talked about internship opportunities. I wanted to get people interested in different sides of agriculture,” says Tyler.
His drive to explore the business side of agriculture brought him to Plant City, Florida, this summer to work as a sales intern for Winfield US.
Tyler’s main project this summer has been working with citrus plants in Florida doing tissue sampling. The busy season for citrus winds down in the fall to make way for a busy vegetable season. The summer months gave Tyler the chance to work on testing herbicide combinations on a test plot–working to get rid of problems with the Spanish Needle weed.
“I think that the results for the test plot will be helpful for growers, because we’re working specifically what’s really affecting citrus plants in Central and South Florida,” says Tyler.
For Tyler, it’s always been about combining that passion for people with that passion for agriculture. The part he’s enjoyed most about his internship is the people he’s met–fellow interns, his supervisor, his sales rep and many others along the way.
“I’d say the best advice for anyone looking at an internship at Land O’Lakes is that you need to be open to go anywhere. If you hit the ground running, you will have a great experience,” says Tyler.
Women in tech
Nina Dinh moved with her family to Minnesota from Vietnam when she was in fourth grade. English became her second language as she learned to speak fluently within her first year. And that first year in the U.S. she discovered another “language” that set her on the path to exploring science and technology.
“When I first came to the U.S., I realized that I really liked math, because it was a universal language in a way–because even when I hadn’t learned English yet, I understood math,” says Nina.
This passion for math led to the world of technology and computers, which helped her become a Genesys Works intern at Medtronic and then an aspirations intern at Land O’Lakes in the summer of 2015–both completed when she was only in high school. Aspirations interns are high school computing award winners in a metro Twin Cities program dedicated to helping women pursue tech.
Now, Nina’s finished her freshman year of college at the University of Minnesota’s College of Science and Engineering as a computer science major and is adding a summer internship at Land O’Lakes to her resume.
The opportunity to grow drew Nina back to the internship program. But she says it was the people that made her want to come back to Land O’Lakes.
“The people genuinely care about you. They want to see you become successful, so they put a lot of time and effort in the projects they plan. They push you to your limit so you keep raising the bar higher and higher,” says Nina.
This summer, she’s been focused on the deployment of laptops, tablets and desktops, working to effectively set them up in our environment for all of our employees.
She got to experience what it’s like to be a manager through delegating tasks to aspirations and Genesys Works interns. It’s not just about managing though, because Nina says she really enjoys teaching and training others.
Nina also had the chance to attend the Winfield US National Sales Meeting this summer in Dallas working on the deployment team for more than 45 computers over the course of one weekend.
“Going to the Winfield US sales meeting was a lot of fun and a lot of work,” says Nina. “We were doing data transfer for a lot of computers. I loved how fast-paced the work was.”
Passion + pigs
For Meghan Orr, everything is about ag. It’s not just a job, it’s her lifestyle after growing up on a small farm in Elgin, Iowa. Her passion for agriculture followed her through high school with involvement in FFA and continued into college with her involvement in the Sigma Alpha professional agricultural sorority and student alumni leadership council.
She is a rising senior at Iowa State University studying agriculture business and international agriculture. Last spring, she completed an internship in Washington D.C. with National Pork Producers Council. And from there, she was drawn to working with livestock.
“I grew up with swine on the farm,” says Meghan. “And this summer I wanted to find an internship with a personal touch, like talking to producers. That interaction on-farm was key, so Land O’Lakes fit for me.”
Meghan is a swine feed intern with Purina, our animal nutrition business. A typical day consists of working with member cooperatives and talking with local swine producers about Purina’s UltraCare® Late Nursery Feeds options. She asks the producers questions, redesigns the questionnaire based on feedback, and then moves on to the next member co-op and another set of producers.
“The best part of my day is meeting so many different people,” says Meghan. “I’ve been as north as Minnesota, and I’ve been down into Davenport, Iowa, all over Eastern Iowa, really anywhere that could be pulling from the Mason City or Clarence feed plants.”
Meghan says she enjoys the open roads and the places she finds along the routes when she travels from farm to co-op to farm. But no summer is without its challenges, although Meghan is more than ready to face them.
“I have a swine background, but I’m not in animal science, so I need to really make sure I know what I’m talking about with producers,” says Meghan. “Purina is a company built on trust, so I always do heavy research before going out.”
Though she’s heading back to Ames, Iowa, for her senior year, Land O’Lakes has definitely made its impression on her.
“I wish people knew how involved Land O’Lakes is with their employees, and with their members,” says Meghan. “The thing I love most about agriculture is that people are really passionate in this industry.”