​Three AGEC Students Represent Purdue through Global Food Challenge  

Written by Kendell Combs, Junior, Agribusiness Management & Agricultural Communication

Each year, Land O’Lakes goes through an extensive interviewing process to choose a select number of students from partnered universities to be a part of the Global Food Challenge as an Emerging Leader. This past summer, only 10 students were selected. These students started the internship after completing their sophomore year of college. The internship is based out of Minneapolis, MN, but the students also traveled to Malawi and South Africa to learn about development and international agriculture, Washington DC to learn about ag policy, and a co-op in the US to learn about American production agriculture. The goal of this program is to provide an overview of the entirety of agriculture, from dairy farms in the US to biotechnology in Africa.

Dane Chapman (Junior; Agribusiness Marketing; Brookston, IN), Bailee Cook (Junior; Agribusiness Management; Walkerton, IN), and Katriel Marks (Junior; Applied Agricultural Economics; Carmel, IN) were the three Purdue students honored with this internship, all coming from the Department of Agricultural Economics. 

Each Emerging Leader was paired with a University Ambassador from their home university.  These individuals supported, counseled and encouraged the students throughout their experience, even in the spring semester before the internship. Dane’s mentor was Dr. Rhonda Phillips, Dean of the Honors College. Bailee’s mentor was Dr. Jayson Lusk, Agriculture Economics Department Head. Katriel’s mentor was Dr. Chad Laux, professor in Purdue's Polytechnic Institute. 

Students traveled to Malawi where they saw firsthand how families participated in subsistence farming by visiting a one-cow dairy farm and cooperative and a tomato cooperative comprised of only women entrepreneurs. They also volunteered at a Child & Youth Center while there to give back to the community that was hosting them. 

In south Africa, students learned about large-scale production farming similar to practices here in the U.S. They visited a vineyard, apple farm and packaging facility, as well as a port where South African fruit was being loaded onto a ship that was headed for the U.S. Students were also able to rely on the University Ambassadors who accompanied them on the trip because students were able to ask them critical questions and learn from their different expertise and experiences.

The students traveled to Washington D.C. where they met with Senators and members of Congress, among other leaders, to lobby on behalf of agriculture and gain a better understand how policy affects agriculture. As the last part on their travel itinerary, the team split into five groups and visited cooperatives and production agriculturists around the U.S. Dane went to Kansas to experience large-scale wheat farming and learn how Land O'Lakes is influencing farmers to implement sustainable practices like reducing water use on fields through drip irrigation. “Being able to talk with local farmers and entrepreneurs, both in Africa and in Kansas, allowed me to dig deeper and ask the questions regarding their biggest challenges and opportunities, said Dane.”

To finish up the internships, students worked on a final consulting project in small groups, with the focus related to a Land O'Lakes business unit. Katriel’s group focused on innovative ways to communicate about the Field Forecasting Tool, a new in-season decision Ag Tech tool from WinField United. “Coming from an urban background, this summer was incredibly educational for me. The best part of this program was that it helped me see where my skills and interests best fit into agriculture.”

This program gave these students countless opportunities to explore the agriculture industry and have an experience unlike any other. Bailee says that her experience as an Emerging Leader has allowed her to have a more holistic view of the agriculture industry. She ties the whole experience up best: “We often get disconnected from the rest of the world, but this internship allowed me to get back in touch with issues that I may not face on a daily basis. The Global Food Challenge is a tangible, inspiring, and humbling experience that opened my eyes to the world around me.”

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