Reaching Out to Curious Consumers to Talk Honestly About Food

April 14, 2018 11:06 AM

WinField United Leadership Team

As a farmer-owned cooperative and food company, Land O’Lakes recognizes the pressures faced by the agriculture industry. It seems as if everyone from policymakers to food purchasers demand increased transparency as well as continual innovation to feed a rapidly growing population. If there was ever a time to invite honest conversations among people with different points of view about how to solve big challenges, it’s now.

Open conversations can certainly be powerful. Land O’Lakes and its crop inputs and insights company, WinField United, initiate these conversations — with farmers, retailers, agronomists and others in the ag and food production industries — to help farmers get the most out of their inputs and remain good stewards of the land.

This past March, Land O’Lakes used its unique position to start a meaningful dialogue with a different audience about addressing the most pressing problems in food production today. And the company chose the South by Southwest (SXSW) Conference, held each year in Austin, Texas, as the right place to hold such discussions.

Finding answers to help ensure the future of food security and efficient, sustainable food production will rely on input from innovators from all walks of life. As fertile ground for new ideas and groundbreaking technology, SXSW was the perfect avenue for Land O’Lakes to seek solutions to the world’s food challenges, via an open dialogue with forward thinking conference attendees.

When we talk about issues as important as food insecurity, new ways to produce food and a changing climate, we want to talk with people who care. We believe people who attended SXSW do. We also trusted that the majority of those who visited our experience, did so with open and curious minds, and without an agenda.

Exploring “The Food Effect”
To give SXSW attendees a glimpse into modern farming, Land O’Lakes, working with WinField United, created The Food Effect — an immersive, interactive experience designed to encourage open, honest dialogue and meaningful interactions between food producers and consumers. Displays were vividly presented, with language and statistics intended to be easily understood and conducive to dialogue.

Exhibits in The Food Effect included:

  • Precision Art: This exhibit demonstrated how technology helps farmers work more economically and sustainably. One attendee, for example, mentioned he was surprised that farmers used satellite technology. This allowed us to begin a conversation about how the use of technology is an essential part of doing business for a number of today’s farmers, and how technology helps advance susainability on their operations.


  • Gene Editor: To make GMOs less ominous to consumers, our display depicted a larger-than-life DNA strand to show how science in food help farmers grow more crops (even in dry climates) and may eventually allow the delivery of much-needed vaccines in developing countries.
  • What’s in the Box: Virtual reality provided a front-row seat to seeing agriculture in action — inside a giant head of lettuce. Visitors viewed a 360-video of dairy farming, vertical farming, algae farming and more innovative techniques.
  • Insecure Lines: The effects of food insecurity were illustrated by a phone bank, where visitors could pick up a receiver and listen to first-person stories from people who have benefitted from the resources of Feeding America, a nationwide network of food banks, as well as farmers who are working to end hunger. For each story heard, Land O’Lakes donated a meal to Feeding America, resulting in a total of 6,459 meals donated.
  • (Car)bon Capture: A car being pulled into a corn field illustrated how a vehicle’s annual carbon emissions could be used by 6 acres of corn, and the importance of healthy soil in the fight against global warming. The display showed how farmers are working to keep excess carbon out of the atmosphere by rotating crops and choosing a minimum- or no-till crop management system.

Getting to know the experts

In addition to interactive exhibits, Land O’Lakes invited leaders from diverse areas, including academia, technology, food production and public policy, to participate in panel discussions on topics as varied as food policy; urban agriculture; modern farming; big data; how science and food production interact; and how to ensure that people have access to sufficient, nutritious and affordable food.


Panels included representatives from National Geographic, Microsoft, fairlife Milk, Feeding America, George Washington University, University of California–Davis, University of Minnesota, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Gro Intelligence and Dairy Management Inc. 

Continuing the conversation
Together, WinField United and Land O’Lakes are actively fostering the food production and sustainability conversation. And we’re backing up our words with actions. For example, our technologies can help farmers place crop protection products, nutrients, seed and water where and when they will be most effective. And the Land O’Lakes SUSTAINTM team supports farmers with conservation and sustainable practices that help them to keep as many acres as possible at top production levels.

All told, we started in-person conversations with 8,137 curious consumers at SXSW and reached nearly 123 million online. We will work to continue these conversations and to begin new ones. When we’re all informed, we’re able to avoid working at cross-purposes, and instead work together to solve real problems. To explore the conversation further, follow @LandOLakesInc and #TheFoodEffect on social media.



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