Develop advocacy skills

Growth for Advocacy: Co-op 201 engages members in how to advocate for themselves and co-op

A Group Photo Of The Co-Op 101 Class

In agriculture, now more than ever, it’s important to share your story with those outside of the industry and show the real side of farming.

As a member-owned cooperative, we at Land O’Lakes are always trying to find new ways for you to develop your advocacy skills and to take action.

That’s where the idea for Growth for Advocacy: Co-op 201, or G4A, came about. The program takes place concurrently with the Mid-Year Meeting in August and is designed for any of our members who are looking to get more involved with their co-op and learn how to create advocacy messages. The good news is that there is still time to sign up for the 2017 session.

“If you want to see change, you have to start to get engaged,” says Paul Hansen, leader development manager, Member Relations. “This program is open to any member who wants to learn how to advocate for the co-op.”

From Engagement to Advocacy

The Growth for Advocacy: Co-op 201 is about engaging members beyond the basic engagement that was covered in the core introductory offering in the Land O’Lakes Leader Development program, Cornerstone for Engagement: Co-op 101. The goal of G4A is to have members learn how to craft their story and seek out new opportunities to advocate or share their story about their own farms, their co-op and the agriculture industry.

“My wife and I had attended the Growth for Advocacy cornerstone program in the spring of 2016, and we wanted to get more involved,” says Chris Clelland, a Land O’Lakes agriculture member from Idaho. “Any time I get the opportunity to learn something or get more knowledge, I try to take that opportunity.”

The G4A leadership program takes place across three days, during the same time as the Mid-Year Meeting in August. The first day of G4A starts with an optional tour of corporate headquarters, breaking into an afternoon session on leadership development. The second day has participants joining elected leaders to hear updates about Land O’Lakes and enjoy a guest speaker whose message focuses on why the agriculture industry needs producers to be advocates, then split back out into separate groups where G4A learns more strategies becoming more of an advocate.. For the third day, participants join in the regional council meetings where final slates of elected leaders are set.

“Being involved with the co-op helps prepare me for future challenges we may face in our industry,” says Josiah Garber of Spring Lawn Farm, LLC, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, who attended Co-op 201 in the fall of 2016. “I enjoyed the experience of Co-op 201 as a way to continue my involvement with Land O’Lakes.”

The need for advocates

Many of the topics at G4A revolve around prompting members to think about why it’s important to be an advocate and how best to tell their story and respond to questions about the agriculture industry.

“We’re showing our members the practical ways that they can tell their story and the co-op story—whether that’s through trips to Washington DC or through their local farm bureau or by opening their farm for tours” says Paul.

For this reason, Land O’Lakes will be conducting two G4A programs to provide our members with more opportunities to improve their advocacy skills. The second program will be held February 26-28 at the 2018 Land O’Lakes Annual Meeting in Minneapolis, MN If the August offering does not fit into your schedule look a little further out on the calendar to see if the Annual Meeting dates work.

“The experience for me was a change in my thinking and my leadership,” says Chris. “Before I went, I was a passive leader; I would do things when called on but not seek them out. But after those three days at Growth for Advocacy, I had a realization that I need to be actively involved in my passions – whether that’s in my local co-op or school board.”

Beyond advocacy

Learning to advocate is important, of course, but G4A is also about networking with peers from across the country—even with board members and speakers. By working together, we can start to find solutions to challenges facing the industry.

“Connecting with and hearing from other peers from different regions of the country helps me know how others are processing these same challenges of how to share their story,” says Josiah. One of the other components of G4A is to bring in members who have done this before, ones who are advocating on behalf of agriculture right now. Sometimes these are board members who understand what it means to be involved.

“The session that stood out to me at Growth for Advocacy was when we heard from former Land O’Lakes Board members,” says Chris. “That encouraged me to stretch my own leadership.”

How to get involved

“We want to find a solution together,” says Paul. “That’s what Growth for Advocacy is about. It’s not a ‘show up and you’re done’ thing; it’s about helping our members find new opportunities and commit to being active. Because agriculture needs their voice and involvement as an advocate.”

If you are interested in getting involved or want to learn more about Growth for Advocacy: Co-op 201, contact Member Relations at or 1-800-328-1341.