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Master of Agribusiness

MAB Alumna looks back at thesis research on feasibility study

This is the second in a series of articles celebrating 20 years of the Master of Agribusiness program. As part of the year-long celebration, the MAB program will publish articles highlighting alumni and research conducted by students throughout the program. #MABTurns20

It’s been 11 years since, Michelle (Evosovich) Adams (‘06) completed her Master of Agribusiness thesis, “Feasibility Study: Converting Conventional Feed Mill to Organic Production.”

At the time, she was a Quality Supervisor for Land O’Lakes in Portland, Oregon. Due to the growth of the organic dairy market in the Pacific Northwest, Land O’Lakes considered converting a conventional feed mill to accommodate organic feed mill production. Adams conducted research to determine the feasibility of the conversion.

“The decision to convert the mill was dependent on regional market factors – input availability, demand for livestock feed and consumer demand of organic livestock products, as well as the actual costs of conversion and continued organic operation,” Adams said.

A baseline scenario assumed the mill remain in conventional production, and was compared to a scenario of organic conversion. Profitability projections were made under six organic scenarios, assuming high or medium growth in demand coupled with three margin pricing scenarios. All analyses consistently indicated the mill could be profitable beginning in year one and significant profits could be realized over the future five years.

“Michelle’s analysis provided results in favor of the conversion to organic production. Farmers and processors considering switching their operations to organic would benefit from some of her cost estimates involved in the conversion,” said Dr. Allen Featherstone, MAB director and professor of agricultural economics. 

Based on her simulation results, it was recommended Land O’Lakes transition the mill to organic production. Ultimately though, the company decided to go in a different direction.

“I presented my thesis findings to the Land O’Lakes area management. They decided that the organic supply was just too difficult to get consistently, so they decided to close the mill rather than make the conversion,” Adams said.

Though Land O’Lakes decided not to follow the recommendation, the project provided valuable results, and gave Adams the opportunity to conduct the financial analysis.

“Although Land O’Lakes chose not to convert the mill to organic production, without Michelle’s research, the company would not have any data on which to base any decision,” Featherstone said. “In that regard, her project was just as important as if they had made the conversion. It also gave her the critical thinking and problem solving skills needed to address the potential conversion process.”

Currently a Production Supervisor with Temco (a CHS/Cargill joint venture in Kalama, Wash., Adams said, “The greatest reward from participating in the MAB program is the acquaintances I have made. I have made many contacts in the agriculture industry that still serve as important contacts for my career. I increased my business knowledge by 1,000 percent, and I appreciate the opportunities available because I earned my Master of Agribusiness from Kansas State.

“The program allowed me to work full time while pursuing my degree. Visiting campus a few times a year helped build the interpersonal relationships with classmates and faculty, as well as develop a connection with the university. I’d highly recommend the MAB to anyone considering a graduate program. The professors at K-State are top notch and always available,” Adams said.