It takes a cooperative: Connecting rural communities to opportunity

Land O'Lakes is helping retail-owners like Agtegra help their own rural communities

Hecla Volunteer Firefighters

As the ag industry continues working to form connections with those familiar and unfamiliar with food production, there is also opportunity to create lasting difference in the communities we all call home. About 13 months ago, when Agtegra Cooperative was created from two major cooperatives in South Dakota and North Dakota, conversations from the Boards showed that rallying around the community was one of the most important aspects of the merger.
“When we first went through this merger, we sat down as a new company and prioritized where we wanted our donations to go. We were already doing a lot of giving, but we wanted to focus on combating hunger and giving to 4H, FFA and our local fire departments,” says Chris Pearson, CEO of Agtegra.
At that time, Agtegra also started taking advantage of the Land O’Lakes Foundation Member Cooperative Match Program. The program, administered by the Land O’Lakes Foundation, matches the cash donations of our member cooperatives to local nonprofits, schools and towns, thus doubling the funds available for hometown projects. (Grants are restricted to organizations with tax-exempt status under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.)
“With the Land O’Lakes match, we were able to maximize our impact,” says Hal Clemensen, Board President of Agtegra. “It’s one of the many ways that Land O’Lakes connects to our rural roots across the country, helping those communities thrive.”
Large gap to fill
Food insecurity may be one of the biggest concerns for families in some of the most rural communities in the U.S., according to Feeding America. That was the first priority that Agtegra recognized.
Agtegra works closely across the state with Feeding South Dakota, to make sure that they’re giving money and support to the places that need it most. Agtegra has 62 primary locations and, in some of those locations, the need has never been more apparent.
“Sometimes we’re the last business in a town,” says Chris. “Sometimes, if not the last one, we’re the only ones who are able to do anything additional for these food pantries.”
“As producers, we want to make sure people have access to fresh food. The farmers we serve are so important to this rural area,” says Hal.
And again, across those 62 communities, FFA and 4H are all supported.
“They’re the future leaders of South Dakota, North Dakota and agriculture,” says Chris.
Many members, employees and their families have kids in FFA and 4H, too. For the company, it’s personal.
Another important area? First responders and volunteer firefighters.
One reason is that over 100 of the staff at Agtegra and many of its members are volunteer firefighters.
There’s a lot of potential hazard working in grain elevators and in rural areas generally, so the partnerships with first responders and fire teams is to keep everyone involved as safe as possible. When things happen in rural America, we work together.
Intention is everything
“With Land O’Lakes and the matches, we were also able to be more focused. If you’re not intentional, you may not be supporting the most important need,” says Chris.
Every day, Land O’Lakes member-owners are already doing so much good in their communities. Our part is to help them make an even greater impact. If you’re looking to get involved or learn more about the Member Match Program, visit the Land O’Lakes Member site or email
“We need to appreciate Land O’Lakes for what they’ve done to help us – the match helped us bolster our efforts and has made a difference here in both rural South Dakota and North Dakota,” says Hal.
Note: Land O’Lakes Foundation Member Cooperative Match Program has been capped at an overall budget of $1,500,000 for 2019.
In 2018, this program reached just over $1,691,000. Based on that, we recommend all cooperatives submit match requests as soon as possible. Updates on the program’s budget will be provided throughout the year.