Meet Global Food Challenge Emerging Leader, Emma Nelson

Tuesday, May 26, 2020 - 11:30am

Emma Nelson, a 2019-2020 Global Food Challenge Emerging Leader from the University of Minnesota, is passionate about the fight against global food insecurity and the discovery of new innovations in agriculture.

In the interview below, she answers questions about her involvement with the Land O’Lakes Global Food Challenge (GFC) Emerging Leader program, her U of M experience, and how she hopes to make an impact.

Q: What prompted your interest in the program and becoming an Emerging Leader? 

When I started searching for a summer internship back in the fall, I knew I wanted to focus on the communication aspects of agriculture. I didn’t really know what I was looking for until I came across the Land O’Lakes Global Food Challenge. The more I researched the program, the more it felt like a dream job, one that fit my style and interests perfectly. Of course, the trip to Africa and the co-op trips around the United States are a selling point for any college student looking to travel. But what drew me in were the deeper aspects of the program.

Q: Could you share a little more about those deeper aspects?

First off, the topic of food insecurity and agriculture sustainability was inspiring on both a personal and professional level. I grew up on a crop farm in a small rural community in West Central Minnesota and from a young age it was important to me that people understood where their food came from and the hard work that went into the nutritious food on their tables. To have the chance to work with Land O’Lakes on the similar idea of food insecurity is an incredible opportunity. Next, the team aspect of the GFC experience was fresh and new to me. It was exciting to imagine working with a group of five diverse college students who share my passions and interests, and to grow side by side in such a unique experience.

As I answer these questions, it’s almost amusing to go back to the thoughts and feelings I had during the application process! It was all just a dream only eight months ago, but here I am living it.

Q: What do you hope to learn and achieve as an Emerging Leader?

Due to COVID-19 travel cancellations, the Global Food Challenge program has been adjusted from twelve weeks to eight weeks. We Emerging Leaders will still be split into two teams to work on different research projects for Land O’Lakes.

From the beginning, I have looked forward to learning from and discussing with the strong leaders of Land O’Lakes and Venture37 the topic of global food insecurity. In general, I look forward to gaining experience in larger professional settings, and am excited to navigate and master virtual and remote work; a unique learning experience that may come in handy in the future! On a personal level, I look forward to reaching outside my comfort zone. I hope to set up small interviews with various Land O’Lakes leaders and employees in hopes of expanding my knowledge of the company and the many working parts of Land O’Lakes. Though I don’t know yet what my research topic will be, I look forward to expanding my knowledge within that project, and to grow my skills as a part of a collaborative, efficient, and effective team.  

Though my summer with Land O’Lakes is not what was originally planned, I am still thrilled to be working with such a great company. I look forward to what we can accomplish together in this unique setting, and feel lucky to have these unique opportunities to grow, both personally and professionally.

Q: What are you involved with outside of GFC Emerging Leaders? 

At the University of Minnesota, I stay quite busy with various clubs and organizations, particularly within the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences (CFANS). I am a member of the Beta of Clovia Sorority where I am currently the treasurer. I also hold an executive position in the Block & Bridle Club as the Student Board Representative. By holding this position, I am also a member of the CFANS Undergraduate Student Board. Lastly, I am an active member of the Gopher Dairy Club as well as the Agricultural Education, Communication and Marketing Club.

Q: Future plans? 

From the beginning of my college career, I have been interested in learning about the different cultures and agricultural practices that are all around the world. This is what drew me first to the Global Food Challenge Program, and to apply for future study abroad experiences. Although nothing is set in stone, I have made steps toward solidifying a semester abroad in Australia for the spring of this upcoming year. I am excited to see how my time and gained knowledge with Land O’Lakes this summer will segue into my experience in Australia.

I have always been a person who looks forward to the next adventure around the corner. Even though it is still a few years away, I ultimately hope to continue my education in graduate school, and to leverage my skills, expertise, and interests into a long-term career in agriculture. In my career and studies, I hope to develop ideas to create and provide food security for people now and for generations to come.

"I grew up on a crop farm in a small rural community in West Central Minnesota and from a young age it was important to me that people understood where their food came from and the hard work that went into the nutritious food on their tables. To have the chance to work with Land O’Lakes on the idea of food insecurity is an incredible opportunity. "

photo courtesy of Emma Nelson