Land O’Lakes member co-op Wilco Farmers hosts development program for their members

Attendees found it very enlightening to learn more about Wilco’s profile, strategies for operating the business and how their equity model worked

Group photo of attendees at the Future Cooperative Leader's Development Event

In today’s competitive agriculture world, cooperatives rely on strategic planning to determine how they will provide great services and products for their member-owners. During the most recent planning session, Wilco Farmers, headquartered in Mt. Angel, Oregon, set a goal to increase engagement with their members and start developing them to be the future leaders of the co-op. But they needed help. So, Wilco Vice President of HR Lisa Smith reached out to Tim Akins of the Land O’Lakes, Inc. Member Relations Ag team to develop a program that fit their needs.
“[Wilco] wanted a program that would provide members with a general overview of cooperative leadership opportunities, provide valuable tools and information to develop business acumen, and provide an opportunity to interact with other members of Wilco’s farming community,” Lisa says.

Co-creating content

After a couple of brainstorming discussions, Lisa, Wilco CEO Sam Burgarsky and Tim decided the best approach would be to start with the base of the Land O’Lakes Cornerstone for Engagement program and add in a few customized topics to create their Future Cooperative Leader’s Development Event. 
Paul Hansen, manager of Leader Development for Land O’Lakes, facilitated the session for 17 member-owners and six Wilco employees. Some participants said the most useful topics were understanding the importance of engaging with the co-op, individual development planning, growing their communication skills to better tell their story, public speaking and working across generations.
“All of the content was well-presented and valuable, especially the navigating change discussion about the generational differences,” says participant Lauren Lucht.
The group also found it very enlightening to learn more about Wilco’s profile, strategies for operating the business and how their equity model worked.

Bonus learning: sustainability

Sam wanted Wilco members to also learn more about Truterra, Land O’Lakes’ sustainability program.  Jennifer Wells, a senior agronomist with Truterra, was able to attend remotely to explain more about carbon markets and how the Truterra Sustainability Tool works. Some of the participants found the session very informational and the group said they wanted to explore ways to potentially include specialty crops in future offerings.
Brian Elder, a former Wilco board member had this to say after attending the program: “The professional meeting was good at getting the entire group engaged and thinking about the importance of being involved in the co-op, which is a very important topic for members and the future success of the co-op.”

Host an event for your co-op

If you are interested in hosting a similar event for your cooperative members, please contact Paul Hansen at You can also visit our Leader Development website to learn more about our programs and other ways to get engaged with Land O’Lakes.