The Member Spotlight celebrates our members who work tirelessly to advance sustainability at their campuses and in their surrounding communities.
Jason Weller, senior director of sustainability, and Emery Volz, associate marketing manager for college and university foodservice, discuss how Land O’Lakes supports sustainability advancements in this member spotlight.
Land O’Lakes is a 96-year-old farmer-owned agricultural co-operative based in Minnesota. While it’s best known to colleges and universities for its butter and cheese products, Land O’Lakes also operates several other businesses which give it a truly “farm-to-fork” perspective.
The Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN business unit, where Jason works, is focused on tackling the complex sustainability issues related to food and agriculture, including protecting and preserving natural resources and aligning environmental sustainability efforts across the organization and its members. “With the SUSTAIN business unit, Land O’Lakes is investing in industry-leading approaches to help our dairy members become more sustainable both economically and environmentally. As a farmer-owned company, we are well-positioned to do this in a unique way,” Mr. Weller explained.
Land O’Lakes is committed to helping its farmer-owners work to improve operations through sustainability. One such owner, the Hess family, maintains the 1,000-cow “Jo Bo Holsteins” dairy farm in Central Pennsylvania. They are always looking for new ways to improve the sustainability of their farm, and recently completed a SUSTAIN-led energy audit which encouraged them to upgrade their lighting to LEDs. This change improved their energy efficiency and the overall sustainability of their farm, while also reducing costs.
The SUSTAIN business unit of Land O’Lakes works to ensure everyone, from farmers like the Hess family to agricultural retailers, is an environmental steward. Mr. Weller and his colleagues work to expand programs such as SoilVantage to help identify opportunities and benchmark progress. “Though these programs, we can perform an in-depth and customized assessment that may recommend cost-effective equipment upgrades to boost energy efficiency and reduce energy consumption, or conservation practices and products that reduce losses of valuable topsoil and nutrients. Every farm is different and it’s important that we provide flexible, individualized stewardship solutions that work for each farmer and their operation,” said Mr. Weller.
AASHE supports Land O’Lakes by providing “the opportunity for us to join one of the most exciting sustainability conversations out there: the one happening on C&U campuses. Most people don’t know that Land O’Lakes is a farmer-owned co-op. As a co-op, sustainability isn’t just something we do in our plants or at our offices – it’s part of our DNA. Our farmer-owners care deeply about the land they work, and we work hard to help them ensure that it will sustain their families for generations to come both through our on-farm sustainability work and by finding the best market we can for the cheese and butter products we make from the milk they produce. As members of AASHE, we hope to better support our owners by learning from the work that colleges and universities are doing to promote sustainability with the next generation of consumers, while also hopefully providing some insight from our work in SUSTAIN that will be of use to the Association’s members,” Mr. Volz shared.