A student with a passion for food security, Libby Putnam was the first UF/IFAS College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) student to be selected as a Land O’ Lakes Global Food Challenge intern. Putnam is double majoring in agricultural education and communication and family, youth and community sciences with minors in leadership, international development and humanitarian assistance, and international studies in agricultural and life science and a certificate in challenge 2050 global leadership and change. She is one of only six students from across the country to be selected for this prestigious internship based out of Arden Hills, Minnesota.
Putnam has been exposed to agriculture all her life. While she hails from a family involved in cattle and citrus production, she knows there are more facets of the agricultural industry for her to explore. “I know there are so many additional areas to pursue in our food system,” Putnam said. “I want to be challenged and discover new ways to impact food security whether it is crop inputs, marketing, international development or the supply chain,” she continued.
In the Global Food Challenge internship, Putnam will take on supply-chain projects for Land O’ Lakes. She will be networking and collaborating with diverse stakeholder groups to gain hands-on experience in Land O’ Lake’s cooperative structure.
According to the Global Food Challenge, the “internship allows students to experience agriculture across the broad system: From meeting with the farmers who produce our food, to deep dives into understanding supply chain considerations, to seeing local and international agribusinesses’ day-to-day operations firsthand, to understanding state and national policy.”
Putnam learned about the internship from an email sent by the CALS director for alumni and career services. The application process involved filming and submitting a short video answering questions about previous experiences in the food system and working in groups and teams as well as the applicant’s interest in the program. Putnam participated in several rounds of interviews including a final interview with Land O’ Lakes executive team members like the vice presidents of supply chain and human resources and general counsel. Putnam said she applied professionalism skills gained through experiences in CALS during the interview process and the systems thinking she developed through the Challenge 2050 program and CALS Leadership Institute.
“I am honored to be the first student selected for this internship from the University of Florida and the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. I hope that my time at Land O’Lakes will encourage other CALS students to pursue the many opportunities that exist in all sectors of the food system. Going to Land O’Lakes for my orientation left me shocked by the diverse opportunities for individuals to get involved.”
Throughout her 11-week experiential internship, Putnam is looking forward to furthering her understanding of the food system from a “farmer to fork” perspective. Due to Land O’ Lakes’ positioning with involvement throughout each sector of the food system, this internship provides an opportunity for Putnam to exponentially grow her knowledge and understanding. Putnam said her experiences in CALS prepared her for this experience in many ways. Her experiences and involvement in the college through the CALS Ambassador program, Florida Youth Institute, CALS Leadership Institute, the Challenge 2050 Program and employment as a student assistant in the UF/IFAS Advancement office equipped her with skills and pushed her to grow both personally and professionally. Putnam encourages all students in CALS to identify out-of-classroom experiences to be involved in.
“I would advise that every student in CALS pursue out-of-classroom experiences whether that is study abroad, internships, or volunteering. We learn by engaging with individuals with diverse backgrounds and experiences and taking on challenges that push us to explore our strengths and weaknesses. I’m looking forward to navigating a large cooperative structure, a new city, and a new role in an unfamiliar environment.” – Libby Putnam