The Land O’Lakes name is synonymous with the highest quality dairy products and agricultural innovation, thanks to the vision and hard work of our founding farmers dating back nearly a century, and today, through the partnership and loyalty of our community members, manufacturers, retailers, consumers and, of course, our farmers.
Our mission -- Feeding Human Progress™ -- began in 1921, when 320 Minnesota dairy farmers formed a farmer co-op to better achieve their goals and feed their neighbors. Today, we’re a thriving Fortune 500 company with 10,000 employees, including 1,959 dairy producers, working in all 50 states, plus 50 countries.
With nearly a century of experience as a member-owned cooperative, we’ve seen our industry grow and evolve in countless ways -- much like the farmers themselves. In 2018, less than 2 percent of Americans work directly in agriculture, yet consumers show great interest in the origin, sustainability and quality of the food on their plates.
To give producers a platform to share their viewpoint and help close the knowledge gap between consumers and modern farmers, Land O’Lakes held an open, honest dialogue hosted by Chris Roberts, President of Land O’Lakes, Inc. Dairy Foods organization. Chris notes that the farmer of today is different: farmers are data managers, financial planners, scientists, veterinarians, weather analysts and much more.
Stephanie Mickelsen runs Mickelsen Farms together with her husband, Mark. They are fifth-generation potato farmers from Idaho, and their sons have also joined the family business. According to Stephanie, in order to succeed as a farmer in 2018, you have to be highly educated in business, crop science and many other areas so you can be profitable and stay in business. She notes that for new technology to be incorporated on the farm, it has to have proven return on investment to help reach their goal of becoming the highest-quality producer with the lowest possible input and maximum yield. For Stephanie, responsibly farming her ancestor’s land is the best way to protect the environment and natural resources for generations to come. She wishes that more people understood that regular farmers are some of the biggest environmentalists on the planet.
Dave Ribeiro of Rib-Arrow Dairy is a third-generation dairy producer from California, where he and his two sons milk 1,500 cows a day and farm 800 acres of crops. For Dave, embracing innovation has always come naturally, but in the past few years it’s become easier than ever to accurately compile and interpret data from computers, GPS and other devices. He marvels at the fact that not long ago, his grandfather milked cows by hand on the same land where Dave runs a fully automated milking operation today. He notes that running a sustainable farm is a priority because as the population grows, we will all depend more heavily on our natural resources and must work together to use them wisely.
Jim Hedges took over his family’s 3,000-acre grain farm in Iowa over 20 years ago, and has seen firsthand how the operation has changed in terms of production, efficiency of inputs and sustainability. He emphasizes that digital technology has given him the ability to produce more with less inputs, make better decisions in-season, reduce costs and protect his most valuable asset: his land. Even as more farmers adopt cutting-edge technology, Jim still feels that many people still hold an old-fashioned stereotype of farmers holding pitchforks in bib overalls. He hopes that in the future, more people recognize the truth of farmers as highly-skilled professionals who are passionate about their work.
These farmers are just a few of the growers working harder to not only feed our growing population but also shed light on the faces of farming and how food is grown today. Land O’Lakes is committed to fulfilling our purpose of Feeding Human Progress™, delivering on our responsibility to member-owners and never losing sight of the value of a hard day's work -- and the farmers who work tirelessly to feed us all.