Since the Purina Feed Sales Internship program relaunched in 2013, its main focuses have been on two things: providing a one-of-a-kind experience for the interns and helping members take full advantage of our co-op system.
Over the past five years the program has grown from a small group of 15 to now, an exceptionally talented group of 66.
The program is mutually beneficial for both interns and members, providing sales experience for the interns and helping member co-ops find top talent to grow their businesses and fill important vacancies.
Joe Fuller, National Farm Production Consultant Leader for Purina, spoke to the fact that businesses struggle to recruit, train and retain top-end talent. This program was created to assist in finding that talent and getting them into the workforce to see if they will be a good fit for the organization.
“The internship program brings the retail owner a fresh outlook on the great young talent that is out there,” Joe says. “Interns are able to come in with a fresh set of eyes, which provides the retailer with some neat perspectives that maybe they haven’t seen before. It gives a fresh new look on the marketplace and what potential is out there.”
Interns are highly vetted, completing an interview process and a sales assessment before they are hired. “We’re really selective in picking out high-level candidates,” says Ryan Gosch, Talent Acquisition for Land O’Lakes Ag Business Recruitment team. But it doesn’t just stop at the hiring component. Interns are brought to the Purina Animal Nutrition Center outside of St. Louis for a three-day orientation where they are provided with breed-specific, hands-on training and education.
Ryan looks forward to seeing all the interns at orientation, saying that when he looks around at the group he thinks “wow, the talent that is in this room that is going to serve these member co-ops and retailers is just something else.”
The Intern Perspective
“This is an industry that has to be around forever,” says Molly Mormann, Purina Feed Sales intern at Three Rivers FS Coop in Dyersville, Iowa. That fact, along with her love for mentoring youth and helping farmers succeed, motivates her to be in agriculture. The Purina Feed Sales Intern program was a great place for her to get started.
“I’ve gained so many different skills and opportunities,” Molly says. Self-described as a go-getter, she has been able to enhance her skill-set with the help of Three Rivers, Purina and her independent work in the field. “I’ve been able to prove myself."
Monica Gerken, an intern at Farmer’s Association in Little Rock, Arkansas, echoes this sentiment. “Purina has been a great company to work for,” she says, noting a strong foundation for her work when she began, as well as product resources that she reads daily to enhance her ability to understand the needs of customers.
Orientation at the Purina Animal Nutrition Center was another unique part of the program that both Molly and Monica valued. They were not only appreciative of the training, but of the networking opportunities that provided them with new connections all over the country.
And when asked if they will pursue careers with Purina after graduation, their answer was the same: an enthusiastic “yes!”
The Retailer Advantage
All American Co-op in Stewartsville, Minnesota, was positioning itself to transition from a time of maintenance to a time of growth when it started taking advantage of the Purina Feed Sales Intern program.
"As we were growing it became really relevant to find talented people,” says Brent Vorpagel, Feed Department Manager at All American. And as top-level nutritionists rarely relocate in the Midwest, the co-op saw a need to begin training new talent and the intern program seemed like a logical place to start.
“It was a training ground for us to develop and add to our team.”
Brent would recommend this program to other retail-owners of Land O’Lakes for many reasons, including a way to try out a salesperson before hiring full-time. It provides a great opportunity to assess the sales ability of an individual and leverage their experience to keep the organization up-to-date on new and advancing technology in an on-farm application.
All American has hired two of their interns full-time and Brent says there are several others who he would welcome back to the organization if their paths crossed again.
“When I started we were a two-and-a-half-person sales staff, we are currently a seven-person sales staff and growing. The intern program is one of the very first places I look at for possible additions to our staff.”
At the end of a passionate discussion about the value of this member service, Ryan Gosch added a final statement that sums up what the whole Purina Feed Sales Intern program is about: “A co-op or retailer is an all hands-on-deck environment, so these interns can help ease the load on employees, while serving the producers and ultimately driving business growth.”
For more information on the program and how to get involved, members can contact Ryan Gosch at RLGosch@landolakes.com.