Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN: Champion for Sustainable Change

  • April 20, 2018
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  • Bjorn Olson

We all know the phrase: “Work smarter, not harder.” Well, the folks at Land O’Lakes decided to double-down on both.

The Sustainable Leadership: Large Employer Award is given to an organization with more than 500 employees that exhibits collaborative efforts to pursue sustainable business practices or offer private sector-based solutions that benefit the environment, economy, and society in the face of environmental challenges.

With the variety of environmental concerns facing us today, we know that components critical to success include leveraging market-driven economics and scalability– the ability to take the successful prototype or pilot and ramp it up. Contrast that with the dispersed and varied non-point sources that cumulatively affect our natural resources and you can see where finding effective solutions can be challenging.

That’s why it often takes a champion to lead and prove concepts with economies of scale. When one organization makes a sustainable change, it proves a point. When number 209 on the Fortune 500 list makes a sustainable change, it proves a concept.


With the establishment of Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN, Land O’Lakes has made a major investment in farmer-owned and -driven sustainability. Land O’Lakes’s work in this area was recently honored on Fortune’s Change the World list of top 50 companies that “do well by doing good.”

Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN focuses on supporting farmers as they implement conservation practices, protecting natural resources and helping to ensure the health and productivity of every acre, for every farmer, season after season. They do this by effectively utilizing existing agricultural networks. Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN staff partner with agricultural retailers (who are long-trusted advisors to farmers) to identify customized approaches best suited for each farm to increase productivity and profitability potential while also improving the quality of each farm’s soil, water and air. Some examples of these beneficial practices include: nutrient management, split applying and in-season management of fertilizer application, strip-till and no-till, use of nitrogen stabilizers, and planting of cover crops. Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN is also the first private entity to work with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture to help farmers get certified with the Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program (MAWQCP).

In addition, these practices are documented so that continuous improvement can be measured over time. By utilizing state-of-the-art technology, like the SoilVantage software to manage topsoil and Agren BufferBuilder flow modeling system, farmers are equipped to make decisions based on the most tailored and accurate data available. The result is environmental conservation in the most needed and impactful areas.

But this wouldn’t qualify as an award winner without the star-studded list of public-private partners that are collaborating to make this success. The Cedar River Watershed Partnership, for example, is a unique collaboration between Central Farm Service (an authorized SUSTAIN retailer), the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, Mower County Soil and Water Conservation District, Hormel Foods, and the most critical partners of all: farmers.


Perhaps one of the easiest to overlook accomplishments of this partnership is the engagement and participation of farmers. By putting farmers in the drivers’ seat, Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN commits to a farmer-led watershed approach that listens to farmers and works to encourage the adoption of strategies that improve soil health, water quality, and farm profitability.

But don’t take my word for it. Matt Carstens, senior vice president of Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN, is well aware of the essential nature of partnership for success in a system as complex as agriculture:

“Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN was founded on the idea that the best, most effective conservation starts on the farm. However, the scale and complexity of the food value chain is such that only when farmers, companies, conservation groups and government unite can we truly achieve our goals– to preserve and protect land and water for future generations, while feeding a growing world and keeping farm families and communities strong.”


Our ceremony to honor Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN and six additional awardees will be on May 23 where we’ll honor the amazing state-wide work that’s benefitting our environment, economies, and communities.

Get your tickets