A woman CEO who loves untangling snared supply chains led farmer-owned cooperative Land O’ Lakes to one of its most profitable years during the pandemic

Last year, Land O’ Lakes, the Minnesota-based farmer-owned cooperative formed in 1921, made news when it retired its decades-long Native American “butter maiden” logo. In a Q&A with the New York Times, chief executive Beth Ford says the redesign was not an attempt at “virtue signaling,” but rather a “forward-looking marketing move” to spread consumer awareness about the company’s credentials as a farmer-owned co-op. Ford, who grew up in Iowa farm country and worked her way through college by cleaning toilets and painting houses, is credited with helping the company navigate supply chain disruptions during the pandemic. She also led the company to one of its most profitable years ever: Sales reached nearly $14 billion last year. Speaking about the cooperative model, Ford stated: “There’s an intimacy to this model. I know the families. I’m out on their farms. I’m with them constantly. I see the pressure. I see their stress at the same time. I see their communities that are challenged.”

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