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Meet Pat Tracy, a long-time supporter of Semilla Nueva.

Pat Smith (Light a Single Candle Executive Director) and Pat Tracy (Light a Single Candle Board President) visiting Semilla Nueva’s breeding program at the experimental farm in Suchitepéquez. “[This] tall, healthy corn provides inspiration about what’s possible,” says Pat Tracy.

A retired CEO of the largest food redistribution company in the United States, Pat Tracy now applies his years of supply chain expertise to combating poverty and hunger in six Central American and Caribbean countries and St. Louis, Missouri.

When Pat first partnered with an organization called Food for the Poor twenty years ago, he discovered the severe toll that hunger was taking in parts of the world that he had never visited nor knew much about. On a trip to Haiti, his first time visiting one of the world’s most vulnerable countries, he was intimidated by the challenges that people faced there. He wondered: how could one person start to fix the hunger, malnutrition, poor sanitation, non-potable water, and lack of education? How could one person make a difference?

His response was simple but meaningful: do your part. “There is a saying, which is ‘it is better to light a single candle than curse the darkness.’ Everyone should light a candle; everyone should apply their skills or gifts to make a difference wherever they can,” he explains. This message of hope, that critical moment in Haiti responsible for the name of his foundation, has continued to guide Pat over the years.

In 2017, he was introduced to Semilla Nueva’s “merry band” and was inspired by the endeavor to reduce nutritional deficiencies for the entire country of Guatemala, “the long shot,” as he calls it. “We drank the Kool-Aid,” he says, “Malnutrition has been a big issue [in the countries where we work], but there have been no real solutions that we’ve been able to find of significance or sustainability. So, when we heard about Semilla Nueva’s long shot, it really captured our interest.”

Pat Smith (back left), Jane Tracy (front left), and Pat Tracy (front center) visit farmers using Semilla Nueva’s biofortified seed in Suchitepéquez, Guatemala—and eat tortillas!

Pat is eager to see Semilla Nueva advance its relationships with commercial seed companies, reach more farmers, especially subsistence farmers, support government efforts for a seed distribution program and emergency grain reserve program, and measure its results in 2021. “Every year we’ve gotten in a little deeper,” he jokes. “It’s still a long shot but the shot keeps looking better.” Looking forward to the next five years, Pat believes that Semilla Nueva can change the trajectory of nutrition in Guatemala—and beyond: 

“Getting people to a much more nutritional diet without changing their diet—that will begin a journey that will provide a boost up for their health, their life, their potential… And for subsistence farmers, they’ll not only get more nutritious tortillas, but they’ll also grow more corn, sell it, and then use that income to broaden and improve their diet—to include fruits, vegetables, protein—and send their kids to school. After success is proven here, we can export it to other countries and make a big impact in a similar manner.”

“It’s always hard to do little things. It’s harder to do big things. This is a big thing. It takes longer. It takes more resources. It takes persistence… All we can do is give it our best shot,” he adds. Pat believes in Semilla Nueva’s potential for impact and will to prevail—and for that we cannot thank him enough.

Pat Smith, Jane Tracy (Light a Single Candle Board Member), Pat Tracy, and the children of one of the farmers at Semilla Nueva’s experimental farm in Suchitepéquez.

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