If you want to sell an idea to dairy executive Beth Ford, it better be backed up with facts.

Ford, the chief operating officer of Land O’ Lakes, told Dairy Foods, “I tend to be pretty direct about this with my team. What I want is the analysis. I don't necessarily want, ‘I think. I feel.’ When you want to have a discussion about something and you have a point of view, have a point of view rooted in facts and analysis.”

In a wide-ranging interview with Dairy Foods, Ford talked about hiring, recruiting and innovation at the Minnesota-based dairy cooperative.  Listen to part 2 of the interview below and download parts 1 and 2 of this All Things Dairy podcast from the iTunes store.

Listen to part 2 of the podcast now.

In addition to leading the co-op’s dairy foods business segment, Ford heads the Purina Animal Nutrition division. Land O’Lakes is the largest dairy cooperative in the United States and is sixth largest dairy processor in North America, according to our Dairy 100 ranking.

Land O'Lakes has a young workforce

Because of growth and normal turnover, more than half of the employees have joined Land O’Lakes in the last five years, Ford said. More than 50% are in the millennial generation.

The company culture is to strengthen local and world communities. Its tagline is its mission: "Feeding human progress." Inculcating the workforce with the company culture is not that difficult because employees arrive with similar values.

“We attract people who are culturally aligned to that and who believe in agriculture and a mission of feeding a growing population. So it's not a matter of trying to convince them. I think that they are believers and are excited about that mission and that journey in and of itself.”

This week the co-op said it has partnered with the Share Our Strength organization to help combat childhood hunger. Through the end of this year, customers of Land O'Lakes Foodservice can donate their points earned in the co-op’s Performance Extras loyalty program to the No Kid Hungry program run by Share Our Strength. Land O'Lakes will increase the value of those points to $1 per qualifying case and donate up to $100,000. Every dollar donated helps feed a child 10 healthy meals. 

Growth, innovation, technology at Land O'Lakes

Land O’Lakes does not have to sell a college graduate on a career in agriculture. Recruiting and hiring have not been a struggle, she said.

“We are a Fortune-200 some company. We've doubled in size, so it's a growth story, it's an innovation story. We're about technology. That's interesting to a young person. We can offer them great training and career development. All of those are exciting. So I'll be honest with you, we have not struggled to hire.”

Ford said President and CEO Chris Policinski has focused on the importance of diversity in the workforce.

“We know that . . . a diverse employee base more representative of the consumer will make us more effective,” she said.

In part 1 of the All Things Dairy podcast, Ford talks about how Land O’ Lakes develops cheese and butter products for foodservice and for retail. She also elaborates on the acquisition of pudding maker Kozy Shack.