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Land O’Lakes, Inc. program offers two students robust experience in agriculture

Spending the summer traveling around the United States, visiting another country and working directly with the CEO of a Fortune 500 company would be a dream experience for any student. This summer, two of Purdue’s College of Agriculture students received the opportunity to do all of that, and much more. 

Dev Patel and Michael Heraty, both juniors in Agricultural and Biological Engineering, were two of six students selected from across the nation for the Land O’Lakes Global Food Challenge Emerging Leaders for Food Security Program, an 11-week internship that pairs teams of students with a business unit within the company to solve issues across intersections of agriculture, food and technology. 

When Patel applied for the internship program in 2021, he was simply interested in exploring a new industry. 

“I was hoping this program would help uncover an underlying passion that I didn’t know existed and connect me with some of the best leaders in ag,” Patel said. “I was interested in all the other aspects of the program as well, including leadership development, domestic and international travel, and exposure to all the different business units of Land O’Lakes, Inc.”

Michael Heraty, far left, and Dev Patel, far right, stand with their fellow Land O'Lakes Global Food Challenge Emerging Leaders for Food Security Program students to pose with Land O'Lakes CEO Beth Ford. Photo submitted by Michael Heraty

 Patel also found the culture at Land O’Lakes engaging. 

“From the security guard to the CEO, everyone at the company showed incredible kindness and generosity of their time,” Patel said. 

The students spent time outside the Land O’Lakes, Inc. corporate offices as well, visiting several cooperative farms in different states. They also spent time in Minnesota’s State House learning about agricultural policy and took a week-long trip to Canada to experience the difference between the two countries’ agricultural systems and crop productions. 

Heraty said being a part of the program proved to be more like joining a second family, not only among his fellow interns, but also within Land O’Lakes, Inc. The students all lived, cooked meals and went on small weekend trips together. Each student was also assigned an upper leadership mentor. 

“The consulting-style projects we were assigned throughout the summer were impactful to Land O’Lakes, Inc., and even as students we were helping to create strategy and generate innovation,” Heraty said. “Presenting that project and our findings to CEO Beth Ford and some of the executive leadership team was an experience I never thought I would have as an undergrad.”

Dev Patel, left, and Michael Heraty, right, pose beneath a waterfall in Wisconsin, one of their many weekend getaway trips with their fellow program students. Photo submitted by Michael Heraty

With their summer program now ending, Patel and Heraty said the hardest part has been knowing they’ll need to say goodbye, at least for now. 

“It’s truly been the opportunity of a lifetime for me and opened a wide range of career paths centered around agriculture” Heraty said. “I know some tears are going to be shed on the way home, but as our team has said, a small part of our hearts will forever stay in Minnesota.” 

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