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Ensuring a Brighter Future: Glenn and Marlys Haughie’s Impact on Semilla Nueva

Curt Bowen and Marlys and Glenn Haughie in La Maquina, Guatemala in 2016

Glenn Haughie and his late wife Marlys, childhood sweethearts from Clarkfield, Minnesota, shared a deep passion for improving the lives of others. They married just before Glenn began studies at Harvard Medical School in 1961.

After graduating, Glenn worked as a public health physician at the county and state levels in New York. In the 1980s and 1990s, he served as IBM’s Medical Director and was responsible for policy development for public health risks and employee health care. Meanwhile, Marlys applied her nursing and social work degrees in early alcohol and drug rehabilitation programs and later in community mental health services in New York.

“It wasn’t until their retirement in Naples, Florida, that Glenn and Marlys turned their attention to Guatemala.”

The Haughies made the first of three trips to the region to visit the Escuela Jim Smith, an elementary school in Palín, Guatemala. The school was built in memory of a member of their church community (and by pure coincidence, the father of Semilla Nueva’s current Board President, Dave Smith) with the help of Miracles in Action (MIA), a nonprofit based in Antigua, Guatemala. On that trip, MIA founder Penny Rambacher introduced Glenn and Marlys to Semilla Nueva’s Co-Founder and CEO, Curt Bowen.

Test plot at the Experimental Farm.

“We met Curt in the early days of Semilla Nueva. I remember being so impressed by his passion and intelligence in explaining his vision for fighting malnutrition and rural poverty. I wasn’t sure he would pull it off, but Marlys and I thought he deserved a shot!”

In 2017, Glenn and Marlys helped construct what has become Semilla Nueva’s Research and Breeding Facility in La Maquina, Guatemala. They made this gift in memory of their son, Patrick, who died at the age of eight. The couple later funded the farm’s irrigation system. Both investments were key to establishing Semilla Nueva’s in-house seed breeding capacity.

Main building at the Experimental Farm.

Curt explains, “Glenn and Marlys funded the farm construction and its irrigation system just as we began thinking about the potential of biofortified corn and the eventual need for a breeding facility. As generous as these gifts were, I don’t think we fully realized how important these investments would become for the future of Semilla Nueva!”

Following Marlys’ passing in August 2023, Glenn honored her memory by funding the installation of a solar electricity system at the farm. This system will eliminate the frequent electricity and internet disruptions that have plagued our Breeding Team. ”Marlys believed strongly in Semilla Nueva’s mission,” Glenn reflected. “I believe she would be very pleased to know this system will empower the organization’s work with light and energy.”