On the road and at the farm: A summer well spent

Land O'Lakes Member Relations Interns find passion in summer projects.

Member Relations Interns Gather With Dairy Cows

At one time or another, we’ve probably all wished for a glamorous summer job. For some, maybe that meant summers working on the beach or at a theme park. For others, there’s nothing better than hitting the road in a truck, working with farmers and getting fully involved in modern agriculture.

Land O’Lakes, Inc. Member Relations interns definitely fall into the latter of those two options, and this summer, we have two students working in the field in Carlisle, Pennsylvania and Tulare, California.

Senior at Penn State, Kayli Kumanchik is studying agribusiness management. Even though she did not grow up with a connection to agriculture, the major sparked her interest in the industry. As a Member Relations intern, Kayli has had multiple opportunities to learn more about modern farming.

“Any given week I can get a curveball thrown at me,” Kayli says. “Every week is very different. I spend time working on my project specifically and then there are times when I meet producers.”

For the summer, Kayli is working on figuring out how to streamline the process of sampling and testing Land O’Lakes member milk for both quality and specific milk components. With 1,146 producers located in the eastern region of Land O’Lakes, the task is vast and involves numerous steps. With Kayli’s project results, Land O’Lakes is looking to identify and correct bottlenecks in testing. Accurate results, delivered in a timely manner allow farmers to make more timely adjustments and, if necessary, take corrective action.

“Throughout my internship and project, I have learned that I enjoy analyzing data,” Kayli says. “I think I would like to have a career in the future that has something to do with analyzing.”

As Kayli has visited various farms, she’s learned one of the most important lessons to know is that each farm, and farmer, is different. If a producer asks a question, she may not know it, but she can always find help to answer the question.

Like Kayli, Member Relations intern, Darby Toth finds her time is split between the office in Tulare and visiting member-owners. Darby graduated in 2017 from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo with a bachelor’s degree in dairy science and plans to go back to school this fall to receive her ag teaching credentials. This summer, Darby is helping members in and around Tulare, California prepare their operations for the next round of FARM animal care evaluations in September.

Land O’Lakes dairy member-owners have been committed to the FARM program since it began in 2009. The program demonstrates dairy producers’ commitment to providing quality care to their cows. Because the program offers a continuous improvement process, members are re-evaluated every three years.

“The first week, I got to go around with a team member and meet some of the producers,” Darby says. “One producer was even cooking lunch and invited us to join. Sometimes producers are really busy, but they have always been gracious, respectful and receptive of the work I am doing.”

Darby decided to become a Member Relations intern at Land O’Lakes because she wanted the opportunity to interact with dairy member-owners. Although she did not live on a dairy growing up, Darby’s family members own dairies.

“I chose to go into ag because of the people,” Darby says. “They are such a unique group. Their job isn’t always easy but there is so much heritage and pride in what they do. It’s an important industry for our state and it’s even more important that we support the farmers. I want to continue to do that.”

As Darby has continued her project and visited more producers, she’s learned more about Land O’Lakes and the importance of member-owners. As a cooperative, Land O’Lakes’ success depends on the member’s success.

“The members are the backbone of our company,” Darby says. “Member Relations has an important role working with them to drive that shared success.”

As we look back on past summer jobs, some probably made more of an impact than others, but Land O’Lakes Member Relations interns have learned lessons that they can take with them wherever the go from here. The work isn’t always glamorous, but there are always projects to be completed and farms to visit.