Ag is how young leaders will build a sustainable future. Cargill is helping them get there.
November 11, 2019
Years ago, one of the future leaders of agriculture was working on her family farm in northern California, helping her parents and brothers figure out how to grow almonds.
It taught her optimism and resilience, and the power of working together toward a common goal. And it showed Ruth Kimmelshue that she could do anything.
“To put it simply, agriculture is how I became the person I am today,” Cargill’s chief sustainability officer said. “The future of agriculture is deeply personal to me.”
Her remarks came in October 2019 at the annual convention of the National FFA Organization, a group dedicated to leadership and development for young people through agriculture education and opportunities.
Cargill, a longtime FFA supporter, is investing $2.1 million over the next three years in the organization to help develop future leaders who are ready to find solutions for feeding a growing population within planetary boundaries.
The convention also presented an opportunity for Cargill to build a bridge between the present and future of agriculture leadership. Kimmelshue described the sweeping advances she’s seen over the course of her career and things her younger self would never have imagined, like plant- and cell-based protein.
She encouraged young leaders to make sustainability part of their work and to be advocates for agriculture as a force for good.
“You’re likely trying to decide what your future looks like,” she said. “If you want to have a positive impact on the planet, if you want to contribute to the newest technologies, if you want to help lift people out of poverty while creating a future for your own family, choose agriculture. Because agriculture is how we’ll do all these things.”
After her remarks, Kimmelshue had a chance to chat with Kayla Kaalberg, a senior at Iowa State University studying global resource systems, agriculture and society, and Spanish.
Kaalberg said sustainability and global citizenship are important to her as she prepares to enter the agriculture industry after she graduates this winter, and that she wants to impact agriculture by being a responsible steward and providing opportunity for farmer prosperity.
Kimmelshue said Kaalberg and other future leaders have an enviable opportunity to drive exciting changes across the industry.
“I look at where you are and I think, ‘oh my gosh, I want to go back and start my career all over again,’” she said. “I think food and agriculture right now is such an exciting place to be. We have really challenging opportunities and challenging issues. But I also believe that collectively we'll figure it out.”
The convention also featured John Niemann, a managing director in Cargill’s protein ingredients business. He said Cargill supports FFA because it knows the future of agriculture will be shaped by its members.
“Their success is our success,” Niemann said. “Working together we can ensure American agriculture continues to build vibrant communities, supports prosperous families and rewarding careers, and produces the food we need to feed a growing population.”
In another session, SriRaj Kantamneni, managing director for digital insights for Cargill’s animal nutrition and health business, described how agriculture has catching up to do to modernize and meet those challenges sustainably. According to McKinsey & Company, it’s one of the least digitalized sectors in the world.
He highlighted some of Cargill’s work to close that gap, like using artificial intelligence to improve animal health and welfare on dairy farms or to optimize aquaculture feed.
And he said tech-savvy, forward-thinking young people have an even bigger chance to make a difference and shape the future of the industry.
“I know you’re smart, and I know you can make a difference in our world through agriculture,” he said. “And agriculture is how we’ll make the world a better place.”