How many ag experts does it take to build a house?

Five Land O'Lakes Member co-ops volunteer to change lives

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It’s nothing new to tell you our member-owners, individual farmers and member co-ops, are very passionate about giving back to their local communities. But what might be surprising is that some of our member-cooperatives are working together to combine their time and resources for good causes. And by partnering with the Land O’Lakes Foundation, they can make their impact even greater.

In early August, five of our member-cooperatives from across Indiana teamed up to sponsor a day of the Habitat for Humanity Ag Build at the Indiana State Fair. Their employees showed up bright and early on August 10 to help build houses for families in need.

The first time our ag coops volunteered for the Habitat build was in 2016. And it’s likely that this year won’t be the last.

“We would love to make the Build an annual thing for our co-op,” says Scott Logue, CEO of Harvest Land Cooperative. “I feel like it's our obligation to be supportive in our communities and help people who are in need. As a farmer-owned company, we should give back.”

Building the partnership

It started with an idea brought forth by Mike Hirt from Land O’Lakes’ Ag Customer Team, Drew Garretson, Winfield United regional technology manager and Beth Archer, executive director of AgriInstitute. AgriInstitute is a 501c3 nonprofit in Indiana that develops leaders in agriculture. Many of our member co-op leaders in Indiana are members of AgriInstitute, including Scott.

“Mike Hirt, Drew Garretson and Beth Archer brought this idea to us – to have co-ops work together. I think that this is a pretty unique situation - the idea of working with the other co-ops,” says Scott. “But that’s the special part of this; it’s a really great situation to be able to work alongside so many other major co-ops in the state.”

Each year, in partnership with the Indiana State Fair, Habitat for Humanity builds two houses during the two weeks of the State Fair, all on the fairgrounds. For a day of home building, sponsors are asked to make a $10,000 donation to Habitat for Humanity. This is not a small donation so it makes a big difference that member cooperatives Ceres Solutions, North Central, Harvest Land, Co-Alliance and Premier Companies were able to work together to share in the cost.

“We’re all in agriculture together, and we can work together to give back. I think it goes back to our co-op members’ humble approach. They're able to show their passion and story of agriculture through volunteering,” says Drew.

Volunteerism runs deep

The build brought together passionate employees from across each of the co-ops. “Each co-op just asks for volunteers. We had more volunteers than we had spots available. There are lots of people volunteering from different areas, from agronomy to energy to credit to HR,” says Scott.

That was true for the first year and was true this last year. The co-ops are seeing strong engagement from their employees and staff. Jeff Troike, CEO of Ceres Solutions, was part of the build last year and stepped out of the spotlight this year so other employees would have the chance to volunteer.

“In 2016, everyone seemed so thankful to be there,” says Jeff. “Working this type of activity is just enjoyable; we get to see so many people come together for this project. This is a great volunteer opportunity, and like most charitable involvement, you get more out of it than you give.”

Giving back, the Land O’Lakes way

Land O’Lakes also sponsors a lunch for all of the volunteers after the Build in the morning, and both Scott and Jeff participated last year. This year, Scott and other leaders spoke in a panel on how local co-ops how give back to their communities and how they share the work they do.

The Member Co-op Match program through the Land O’Lakes Foundation matches dollar for dollar in charitable contributions to eligible hometown projects. The Land O’Lakes Foundation has matched over $350,000 in donations in Indiana in total since 2015. For the Build, to date, three of the five co-ops have requested matches for the event, totaling $4,000.

Not all of our co-ops used their member matches for the build, instead choosing to use matches for other volunteer opportunities.

“The Ceres employee group is, by nature, very giving—and we focus our efforts primarily on making impact through gifts to 4H, FFA, and local Foodbanks. But I give a lot of credit to the Land O'Lakes Matching program to continue to inspire us,” says Jeff. “When you give a dollar, and a partner comes along and turns that dollar into two, it makes a difference. Land O'Lakes helps us double our positive impact in the communities we serve.”