It's 4 a.m. when my alarm starts blaring. Bleary-eyed and downing coffee, I'm on the road shortly after, chasing the Texas sunrise. Driving further away from the city, the asphalt morphs into a long dirt driveway.
Today I’m in central Texas—the Brazos River Bottom to be exact—shooting a video for Land O’Lakes, Inc. on John Malazzo’s farm. My job is to make sure everything goes smoothly. There’s some project wrangling, but mostly it’s a crash course in what it means to be a modern farmer. That’s the part I love.
I’m the first person from the crew to arrive at the farm. John walks out of his office, excited to tell me his irrigation system is right on schedule. Using an app on his phone, he’s programmed it to roll in front of the office at sunrise. I was impressed. And it’ll be perfect so we can get some morning beauty shots.
I’ve already met John and had a tour of the property. He grows both corn and cotton, raises cattle, too. Being a Midwestern girl, I’ve never seen cotton fields before. It’s surprising just how beautiful the light purple flowers are. At harvest, the fluffy white light fibers will bring the illusion of snow to Texas.
James Deatherage, president and CEO of Producers Cooperate Association, is also on site. James says Producers, a Land O’Lakes customer-owner, is the largest member-owned cooperative in Texas. He also says it’s his co-op’s job to make sure growers, like John, are successful. In turn, Land O’Lakes helps make sure Producers is successful. As we start chatting about the game plan for the day, the video crew rolls down the drive.
A few weeks before, it was the same story—except this time at Rohe Dairy in Saint Rosa, Minnesota. There was another early morning, another gravel road and another warm welcome. This time from Michele Rohe.
Michele sat in front of the camera waiting for the crew to make some final lighting adjustments, she laughed and rolled her coffee cup back and forth between her hands. She was eager to tell us what this business means to her and her family. Michele works alongside her husband and his two brothers. Once her sons take over, it’ll be a fifth generation operation.
That’s more than 100 years of success, which Michele credits to the help of the co-op system. Today, Rohe Dairy is connected to each of Land O’Lakes’ businesses—giving Purina® feed to the calves, using WinField® products to bring in a good crop and ultimately shipping milk to the cheese plant in Melrose, Minnesota.
Whether it’s Michele the dairy producer, John the crop grower or James the business manager, the ag industry is filled with men and women who are out there every day, doing the best by their land, their animals and their communities.
To them, the cooperative system has been there to help them since day one, and they’re counting on it as they look to the future. But don't take my word for it—they’ll tell you best.