Students chosen for agriculture internship

The three students will be able to travel internationally and work on projects.

by Eliana Schreiber

Though demand for food will only continue to surge, college students are wary of entering the agricultural industry.
By 2050, the world population is expected to rise to about 10 billion people, growing the demand for food by 70 percent, according to statistics from the United Nations.
But a Land O’ Lakes survey also found that only 3 percent of college graduates would consider careers in agriculture.
To foster interest in the industry, the company designed a program to attract young people — in particular, those studying in fields that at face value seem separate from agriculture.
The program, Global Food Challenge Emerging Leaders for Food Security, offers 10 second-year students from five major universities — including the University of Minnesota — a yearlong fellowship with the company. 
“We thought, what a great opportunity to not only engage with young people … but to expose them also to what it takes to feed the world,” said Land O’Lakes Foundation Executive Director Lydia Botham.
The opportunity allows students with majors unrelated to agriculture to make an impact in the field, said chemical engineering and chemistry sophomore Blake 
Sydney Gray, for example, is an accounting and supply chain sophomore at Purdue University. When she thinks about future widespread hunger, she sees food security and sustainable farming as preventative measures.
“The agriculture industry is growing immensely, but at the same time, we’re facing a lot of problems,” Gray said.
Students have already begun working on projects during the school year. In May, they begin an 11-week paid internship at Land O’ Lakes’ Arden Hills, Minn., office, Botham said. Later, they’ll head to Washington D.C. and fly to Africa, where students will explore farms in Rwanda and Kenya.
Since food is accessible in first-world countries, it’s important to focus on food insecurity in countries that don’t have the same luxury, said bioproducts and biosystems engineering sophomore Elizabeth Alonzi. 
“It’s such a huge issue that nobody really thinks that much about, especially in America and Europe,” she said. “You just think your food is coming from the grocery store, but it comes from so much more than that.”
Food science and nutrition sophomore Katie Enzenauer said she hopes the strategies and ideas developed by the fellows this summer will raise awareness about food insecurity issues.
“I’m most excited to start the path to solving this problem,” Enzenauer said. “Maybe our ideas and our proposals … are not the solution, but hopefully they are able to get somebody else to think about it.”
While many people associate agriculture with farming, employment opportunities in the industry are diverse, Minnesota Department of Agriculture Marketing Section Supervisor Paul Hugunin said.
“It’s a field where you really can take on the world’s biggest problems,” he said.