If you could go back in time to 1981, our world would look and feel a lot different than it does today. The global population totaled 4.4 billion. Today it’s 7.7 billion and expected to reach nearly 10 billion in the next 30 years. In 1981, according to The World Bank, over 42% of the world’s population lived in poverty. Today it’s less than 10% which, while still too high, represents dramatic progress.
Here at Land O’Lakes, Inc., our cooperative revenue totaled just $3.5 billion in 1981 and our membership was concentrated in about seven midwestern states. Today, our membership footprint spans all 50 states, and we ended 2018 with $15 billion in revenue, placing our co-op at 212 on the Fortune 500.
Despite our relatively small size back then, our co-op’s leaders were thinking big. And not just about how to expand our business in the U.S. No, they were thinking about how to transform agriculture around the world.
This small group of big thinkers decided to go exploring. And what they discovered was a world that could benefit from the agricultural know-how they’d built since our co-op’s founding in 1921. This belief came from their values -- that farmers help farmers, no matter where they live
These visionaries founded Land O’Lakes International Development to implement agricultural development projects, largely funded by the U.S. government through the U.S. Agency for International Development, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and other nonprofit foundations. The ambition of their work was then -- and is today -- improving agricultural practices and markets, leading to better incomes for farmers and their families, stronger agricultural businesses and industries, and more resilient and secure communities.
Today, Land O’Lakes International Development is a nonprofit and has implemented over 300 projects in nearly 80 countries. And today, we recommit ourselves to helping communities thrive through agriculture -- from farmer-to-fork.
We’re proud to announce the new name of this great organization: Land O’Lakes Venture37.
Why Land O’Lakes Venture37?
It’s simple: 37 is the percentage of our Earth’s land where farmers grow the crops and raise the livestock that nourish the world. While the farmland footprint varies country to country, 37% is all we’ve got to work with. With the world’s population growing, we’ve got to work together -- across continents, cultures and markets -- to ensure abundant, nutritious food is accessible so everyone can reach their full potential. And we need to do this in a way that sustains the health of our soil, water and air.
Land O’Lakes Venture37 is uniquely positioned to help solve this challenge. Decades of experience leading complex projects around the world, coupled with the world-class technical and business expertise of the Land O’Lakes, Inc. team, means Venture37 has the agricultural wisdom and the talent to deliver.
And at Land O’Lakes, we share the same beliefs as Venture37:
That agricultural development is the primary lever for economic growth in emerging countries
That there is a path to global food security though inclusion, innovation, and entrepreneurship
That there is power in community and cooperation, and in the values of fairness, authenticity, and humility
That good partners can share knowledge, create breakthrough solutions, and change the world for the better
We invite you to partner with Land O’Lakes Venture37 in this next chapter. Take a look at the new Land O’Lakes Venture37 website and read about the impact they’re making. Follow Venture37 on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook and share the stories that move you.
Be sure to check back to see how you might work with Land O’Lakes Venture37, too.
We said it before: We’ve got to work together -- across continents, cultures and markets -- to ensure abundant nutritious food is accessible so everyone can reach their full potential. We do this in pursuit of our common purpose: Feeding Human Progress.
John Ellenberger is a senior vice president at Land O’Lakes, Inc. and the executive director of Land O’Lakes Venture37.