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When it comes to rural America, brands have the power to shape the future

Disrupting perceptions around rural America is more important than ever before.

When it comes to rural America, brands have the power to shape the future


By Heather Malenshek, CMO, Land O'Lakes, Inc.

With so many emotional, high-stakes conversations crowding our country’s discourse—global turmoil, division, and broad unease to name only a few—I wonder why rural America has been put on the sidelines.
Rural American communities are often unfairly portrayed as stagnant and disconnected from the fast-paced, interconnected world. It’s time to challenge those perceptions. Rural America is essential and vital. Our agricultural communities feed each of us, and are a hotbed of big thinking and resilience, where hardworking individuals and families are building a future that resonates far beyond their animals and fields.
The reality is they are entrepreneurs directly shaping our world. To Land O’Lakes—a cooperative owned by farmers and agricultural retailers—our co-op isn’t just our business model. It’s the way we work and it’s the “why” behind our work. It’s a commitment to the communities innovating and maintaining a resilient food system for everyone.
Disrupting these perceptions requires action from brands as well as individuals. We have been proud to work with brands in this space, including partners such as Tractor Supply Company and their work to bridge the digital divide. Focusing these efforts and taking direct action to challenge and evolve the narrative around rural America is the next critical step.

  • The misconceptions don’t just plague rural areas. Due to a lack of experience, most people are critical of places they don’t live. There is a notion that urban and rural areas are fundamentally different from one another—but our own research indicates values overlap: Both agree on family as their top personal value and security as the top community value.

  • Only 1% of the U.S. population is involved in agriculture, feeding all of us—and 87% of our food comes from rural American communities. The vitality and vibrancy of rural communities impacts all of us—from the soil to the dinner table to health of the planet.

  • The challenges are pragmatic and extend beyond agriculture. The world needs to produce more food by 2050 than in the past 5,000 years combined—food security, in many ways, is national security. The rural backbone of this country is a frontline defender of a sustainable, secure food supply. The vibrancy of these places—healthy, diverse, prosperous farming communities—is essential in meeting this challenge.  

Our call to action

Rural communities are a powerful model for the rest of the country—they share a “DIY” mindset, bringing together businesses, technology and culture in ways that make each town unique. And brands shape cultural conversations and can alter our national discourse. These forces must be harnessed. We’re taking action with an effort called the Modern Rural Collective, and our mission is straightforward: using storytelling, marketing and communications to bridge the rural-urban divide and foster a more accurate perception of rural America.
We must disrupt the narrative by equipping those with this capability with what they need to tell authentic rural stories. We must advocate for recognition in popular culture that Rural America is a source of talent, solutions and inspiration.
Involve yourself, your company and your community in this effort. Reach out to


About Land O' lakes it is a member owned company.

4001 Lexington Avenue North Arden Hills, MN 55126 | Mailing: P.O. Box 64101 St. Paul, MN 55164-0101 | 651.375.2222