Volunteer Stories

Sherry - Land O'Lakes International Development


Quality Assurance Training in Bani Suef

Quality – a universal language

Oreland plant employee takes her lab expertise to Egypt


Asssignment Overview

Project: Quality Assurance Training in Bani Suef

Implementer: Land O'Lakes International Development

Volunteer Interview: 

Salam alaikum, Sherry! What do you do for Land O’Lakes and what is a highlight of your job?

I have been working at a dairy production plant in Orland, California for eight years. Currently, I am the laboratory lead for quality assurance. My favorite part of the job is problem solving.

A problem-solver up for a challenge. This is a nice lead into your Farmer-to-Farmer assignment. Egypt: the land of the Great Sphinx, King Tut and possibly the birthplace of modern agriculture. You must be a veteran traveler to go on such an adventure.

No! In fact, this was my first time ever being outside of North America. It was also, my first time traveling solo.

Wow. What was it like?

I was nervous at first. However, someone from the Land O’Lakes Farmer-to-Farmer office was with me every step of the way. The people were so nice, including the plant staff I was working with. Also, my college roommate lives in Cairo with her family, so it great to tour around with them on the weekends.

Tell us more about the plant and your assignment working there.

The dairy processing plant is in a small, very poor village called Bani Suef– just south of Cairo. They have 26 employees including one lab technician named Mohamed. My role was to work with him on how to test the milk quality, run the equipment and understand procedures in the lab manual I provided him.

What a unique way to share your expertise. What kind of products do they make?

Overall, they process about one ton of cow and buffalo milk a day to make cheese, custard, and my personal favorites: rice pudding and yogurt. Our Orland facility goes through over 1,000 tons of milk a day, so they run a small operation in comparison.

What did you take away from this experience?

It was incredibly fulfilling to help people improve their operation and jobs – especially in such a poor village. And back at home, it is powerful to share how positive my experience was with my family and friends. It is a fascinating place, and the people treated me like royalty.

That is great to hear. Any closing anecdotes for our readers?

During one of my days in the lab, I was having a hard time explaining an important procedure because Mohamed was still waiting on the equipment. That night I wrote to my team in Orland to explain the predicament. By the time I woke up the next day, they had recorded a video showing them performing the procedure for Mohamed to watch. For me, that moment really represented what Land O’Lakes is doing through its international development projects: One team helping another half a world away.

Farmer-to-Farmer is a USAID program, which relies on the expertise of American volunteers to respond to the needs of farmers and agribusinesses in the developing world. Land O'Lakes International Development implements the program in the Middle East and North Africa region. Most two to three week assignments are in Egypt or Lebanon. If you or someone you know are interested in volunteering and have agribusiness expertise, email the Farmer-to-Farmer volunteer recruiter, Sadie Paschke for more information at SPaschke@landolakes.com.

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