For Beth Ford, agriculture is about more than growing food—it’s about supporting and uplifting the communities that power the industry. From her work with the farmers and members that make up the Land O’Lakes cooperative to her efforts investing in broadband connectivity, she is on a mission to connect the people who grow food to the people who consume it.   

Q: What is your relationship to the farming industry?
A: I have the honor of serving as President and CEO of Land O’Lakes, Inc., a century-old, farmer-owned cooperative. Throughout my time as CEO, the mantra I repeat is “our success starts with our members’ success.”?It is truly what gets me up in the morning and keeps me going.?The connection between the work and the farm family is the best work of my career. This business has an intimacy to it that cannot be matched.?The health and vitality of farmers, farm operations and rural communities is the foundation of who we are at Land O’Lakes, and why we do what we do.??

Q: Why is the agriculture industry so important to Minnesota?
A: Agriculture is not only the backbone of Minnesota but of the entire Midwest. At Land O’Lakes we know farmers are at the heart of creating a better world for all of us and are the original entrepreneurs.?Our rural communities are the main drivers of the agricultural industry and that’s why as a farmer- and member-owned cooperative, our success is inextricably linked to the success of the health and well-being of those who produce our food.

Q: What are the goals of Land O’Lakes’ American Connection Project?
A: During the past few years, we have worked hard to advocate for broadband connectivity, and we’ve seen firsthand how critical digital infrastructure is to the success of communities and businesses across America, in both rural and urban areas.?We believe technology is the greatest enabler of our time. If we can improve access for everyone, we can address many challenges, including those of global food security.?That’s why Land O’Lakes launched the American Connection Project. First to raise awareness about the issue, then to advocate for change and take action to tackle the critical problem of the stark digital divide in America.

Q: What do you believe is the most important thing consumers should know about their food production? 
A: Today’s consumers are interested in being connected to–and educated about–the sources of their food. It’s critical to connect the men and women who grow our food with those who consume it. It’s equally important to educate those unaffiliated with the industry about the challenges we face. I don’t think many Americans understand the fragility and the interconnectedness of the food supply. The Earth’s population is set to grow to about 10 billion people by 2050. During that time, we need to produce more food than the last 8,000 years combined. And we must accomplish that with fewer resources. It’s a huge challenge. 

Q: What are some of the most rewarding and challenging parts of your job? 
A: The most rewarding part of my job is working with my team on behalf of our members. I’m grateful to be figuring out solutions to some of the world’s most pressing challenges alongside some of the most talented and dedicated people. The most difficult challenges are trying to overcome those that face our members and their communities every day: the education achievement gap, lower health care outcomes, closing hospitals, crumbling main streets, lack of access to credit, and the lack of fresh food in America’s heartland; among others.?I am so impressed with their resiliency and their commitment to their communities.