Mekaela stands at a job fair booth with a "Where Your Future Takes Root" banner behind her

Changing the face of agriculture

We're taking steps to improve diversity in other aspects of the food and agriculture value chain.

Of the 3.4 million agricultural producers in America, 95% are white, according to the recently released 2022 Census of Agriculture. That number has remained mostly unchanged since the last report was conducted in 2017.
The latest numbers reinforce the stereotypical image of individuals working across the agriculture industry. Though progress has been made in enhancing diversity in agriculture, minorities are still significantly underrepresented. While representation among producers has held flat, we're taking steps to improve diversity in other aspects of the food and agriculture value chain.

MANRRS and Land O’Lakes partnership

In 1982, Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Related Sciences (MANRRS) was created by a group of agriculture students and faculty at Michigan State University and Pennsylvania State University who recognized the need to support minority students in agricultural programs. Their goal was to develop a network between minority agriculture and natural resources students and professionals from academic institutions, government entities and organizations within the industry. Today, there are 74 Collegiate chapters, 36 Junior MANRRS chapters and more than 19,000 members across the country.
In 2013, Land O’Lakes, Inc. began partnering with MANRRS to help build and support a more diverse workforce. Land O’Lakes was the first Titanium sponsor of the organization, representing an annual investment of $100,000 to the MANRRS National Office since 2017. Through our partnership, Land O’Lakes has recruited more than 150 students from over 30 universities in the last 10 years.

Molding the next generation of diverse talent

One of those recruits includes Mekaela Brisco. While she is currently a Supply Chain Talent Acceleration Program (TAP) Associate at Land O’Lakes, Inc., Mekaela didn’t always know she was interested in a career in agriculture. The Mississippi native started college at Mississippi State University as a Chemistry major. But after finishing her freshman year, Mekaela decided it wasn’t a right fit for her.
“I decided to change my major from Chemistry because I realized it didn’t align with my interests and wouldn’t have led to a fulfilling career path for me. So, in my sophomore year, I determined that pursuing an Animal and Dairy Sciences degree would be a better fit because of my love for animals,” Mekaela says.
She says she knew she had made the right decision early on and loved how hands-on her classes were.
“A lot of my major core classes had labs where I would go to the school’s local farms and work directly with different livestock animals such as bovine, swine, equine and poultry. Little did I know that pursuing an Animal and Dairy Sciences degree would leave a very significant influence on me in helping understand how the agriculture industry affects society today,” Mekaela says.


With her college experience coming to an end, Mekaela says her former professor Dr. Derris Burnett, who is now the National President of MANRRS, introduced her to the organization in fall 2021. After attending a few meetings, Mekaela became an official MANRRS member the following spring semester.
As part of her MANRRS membership, Mekaela heard from influential guest speakers, attended agricultural workshops and conferences, and participated in mock interviews, impromptu speaking events, quiz bowls and more. At one MANRRS workshop, Mekaela connected with employees and leaders from Land O’Lakes, Inc. Those connections helped her land a two-year rotational position as a Supply Chain Talent Acceleration Program (TAP) Associate after graduating.
For her first rotation, which began in summer 2022, Mekaela worked at a dairy manufacturing facility in Kent, Ohio. She was tasked with coming up with a new ergonomic improvement strategy to make the bulk butter de-boxing process more efficient. Then the following year, Mekaela made her way to the Land O’Lakes, Inc. headquarters in Arden Hills, Minnesota, where she currently works with the corporate Quality Assurance team for Dairy Foods.
“The two-year rotational program has been an eye-opening experience, giving me the opportunity to witness the entire process of developing our dairy products within a manufacturing environment. I’ve also been able to gain insight into the business from a corporate perspective,” Mekaela says.
With her two-year rotational program ending this upcoming summer, Mekaela is beginning to look for a permanent position on the Land O’Lakes team. She says she wouldn’t be where she is in her career without the help of MANRRS. 


“As a young professional today, I am still connected with MANRRS through Land O’Lakes. The most rewarding part is having a strong sense of community and being able to reunite with those same students and professionals who supported and inspired me from the beginning. Building those relationships with every individual I’ve come across through MANRRS has been and continues to be valuable,” Mekaela says.
In addition to partnering with MANRRS, Land O’Lakes also works closely with the 1890 Universities Foundation to identify how their three groups can work together to create education and career opportunities for students and graduates of 1890 Land-Grant Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). In 2023, Land O’Lakes created new partnerships with the MANRRS chapters of four 1890 land-grant HBCUs – Delaware State University, University of Maryland Eastern Shore, Lincoln University and Fort Valley State University. As part of these partnerships, Land O’Lakes is helping cover travel and registration costs for students attending the 2024 National MANRRS Conference taking place in Chicago in March. 
“DEI requires a collective effort. Moving forward we must continue building partnerships, inspiring the youth, and demonstrating the importance and impact that agriculture has on everyone,” Mekaela says.