International may not be the first word you associate with Land O’Lakes, but it should: From our partnership with Villa in South Africa, to our affiliation with the independent nonprofit Land O’Lakes International Development, to the career journey of someone like Patricia Pratt.
Patricia’s team at Land O’Lakes, Inc., in enterprise regulatory affairs is helping us think globally about ag, from food security to quality to international food law. No matter where she is or who she is working with, Patricia’s passion for learning -- about law, science, food and international cultures -- push her to success.
To understand how she came to Land O’Lakes, you first have to get to know Patricia as a child. She was only eight years old when she knew she wanted to explore the world. She grew up in the Bahamas with her father, mother and siblings and her view of the world was shaped by what she read in books.
Her father bought her an Encyclopedia Britannica set, but there was a requirement with the gift: Every Sunday, after church, she would have to give her father a presentation about a different country.
“I remember that there were about eight things I had to memorize for him -- the country, the capital, the anthem, the national food and others,” Patricia says. “And then I would have to tell him whether I would want to live there or not. Most of the time, I did.”
She continued with her presentations until she ran out of countries. And when she ran out of countries to read about, she started to explore in person.
“Eventually, I began to learn it and believe it and dream it. I got my first academic scholarship to University, and that was the beginning of the rest of my life,” says Patricia.
Currently, Patricia is senior manager of enterprise regulatory affairs at Land O’Lakes, Inc., helping colleagues across the company understand international food regulations and find solutions to expand their businesses.
Patricia has now worked and/or studied on every continent but Antarctica -- she’s stepped out of books and into the world.
Facilitating a global impact
Patricia was hired at Land O’Lakes during a period when our Global Dairy Ingredients business was looking to expand and grow their reach in international markets and needed to navigate international laws.
Patricia’s team looks at international food laws and regulations to determine feasibility to ship products to a specific country -- from ingredients to packaging to shipping.
“Often, countries have pending food laws that have not been published or passed, such as on prohibited ingredients, so we must look at those,” says Patricia.
And within her role at Land O’Lakes, Patricia uses her curiosity and passion for helping others to ensure everyone succeeds. And she emphasizes that the work she does is a team effort, not an individual one.
“My greatest accomplishment at Land O’Lakes is the collective accomplishments of my team,” she says without hesitation.
Thanks to Patricia’s team, the registrations in domestic and international markets allow our dairy and animal foods businesses to gain success in states and countries where our products did not previously have presence.
Her role is cross-functional -- by reviewing the regulations she will work with teams like labeling, nutritionists, Sales and Marketing, R&D, translators and others to develop a plan to make the product feasible for shipment. Many parts of the enterprise need to come together to work through the technicalities of international logistics needed to ship products.
One such item was our Milk Replacer, which is now registered in Costa Rica. Patricia’s team even worked with the Land O’Lakes Amigos Employee Resource Group for translations and to our nutrition team to discuss what ingredients would and wouldn’t be permissible.
“What we do is interpret the regulations and communicate them. Our duty is not to tell colleagues that “you can’t ship this” – our duty is first and foremost to look at what they want to achieve and how can we can best reach that goal,” she says.
From medicine to food security
When Patricia was growing up, there were no four-year colleges in the Bahamas, so she applied and was accepted into Tuskegee University in Alabama on an academic scholarship. She completed her bachelor’s degree in Pure and Applied Chemistry and then went to the Royal College of Pharmacy at University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland, on a British Scholarship, for her master’s degree in Pharmaceutical Chemistry. Her doctorate was completed in 2002 in Biochemistry and Microbiology at the Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland, on a scholarship from her previous company.
Her professional career took her from the Ministry of Agriculture, Trade and Industry, to the pharmaceutical industry, to the brewing industry, to where she is now, in regulatory affairs and quality at Land O’Lakes.
The one constant through Patricia’s impressive and global career journey is the experiences of her childhood, and specifically, of her family’s values back in the Bahamas. Her grandparents had a farm on one of the islands and would send fruits and vegetables to Patricia when she was a child.
“The idea of food safety would have started from my grandmother,” says Patricia. “She explained how she preserved each of the fruits so I could have them the entire summer. I realized later that the tea leaves she was using are actually used in many new chemical entities that I did under my research program in my first career.”
In Patricia’s mind, there are many striking similarities between medicine and food safety.
“I started to think about all I learned from my grandmother and how I could apply that to medicine and my career. It was very easy for me to switch into food – by nothing more than sheer curiosity,” she says.
A global volunteer
Patricia’s formative years also ingrained the importance of volunteering and giving back. She learned this from her family too. She sees her work and her volunteering as following in her parents’ footsteps and credits them with her desire to give back.
Recently, Patricia expanded her reach by taking a volunteer assignment with Land O’Lakes International Development, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit affiliated with Land O’Lakes, Inc.
This past summer, she volunteered in Lebanon on a three-week volunteer assignment with Land O’Lakes International Development’s Farmer-to-Farmer program. The Farmer-to-Farmer program places U.S. volunteers in agricultural development programs to provide technical assistance to farmers, agribusinesses and others in the agriculture sector in developing countries.
In Lebanon, Patricia worked with five host organizations, ranging from small private businesses to a government ministry. She led a two-day workshop with the Ministry of Economy and Trade, connecting local governments and academic institutions, industry players that have historically had limited collaboration. Her expertise in the food industry in the U.S. helped bridge these conversations.
Patricia was able to facilitate a discussion on future partnership opportunities with the common goal of improving food safety and quality in Lebanon. “To be able to talk about the challenges we face in the U.S. in food quality was powerful,” she says. “It resonated with them.”
She likes to describe her time in Lebanon as “giving of herself” and an exercise for career growth.
“Companies have a responsibility to build communities -- not only within the company but to also bring value to the community in which it lives in, and we live globally,” she says.
Since 1987, nearly 150 Land O’Lakes member-owners and employees like Patricia have traveled on a Farmer-to-Farmer assignment through Land O’Lakes International Development.
Sharing her talents across the world
Patricia’s work has taken her from one end of the world to the other and back again. Slowly but surely, she’s been able to cross off many of the countries she read about as a child in the Bahamas.
On a personal level, the fact that she has the opportunity to give back now and share the knowledge of what she has learned, gives her life meaning.
“Everyone understands the importance of volunteer work. But people do not understand when the shoe is on the other foot,” she says, referring to her childhood in the Bahamas. “I think the important thing about giving back is when you’re receiving it yourself. I think that the greatest thanks you can give for receiving is to then pay it forward.”