N.Y. Farm Viability Institute’s bilingual project prompts spinoff

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — The New York Farm Viability Institute’s bilingual dairy training project has spun off an independent program in support of Western New York dairy farms with Spanish-speaking employees.

Learning a new job can be tough enough — imagine trying to learn it in a foreign language.

Making it easier

Thanks to a New York Farm Viability Institute project designed to help facilitate the training of Spanish-speaking employees on New York’s dairy farms, farms are seeing the benefits and western New York dairies now have access to a new dairy-knowledgeable, culturally-sensitive bilingual trainer.

Based on the success of the bilingual project on farms in more than two dozen New York counties since the program began in 2007, the North West New York Dairy, Livestock & Field Crops Team of Cornell Cooperative Extension and PRO-DAIRY have recently hired a dairy Hispanic training associate to work with farms in the 10-county region.

New York Farm Viability Institute managing director David Grusenmeyer said, “Worker retention is a key concern for any employer. Most Spanish-speaking employees on dairy farms are interested in learning new skills or improving existing skills. Bilingual trainers with technical knowledge about the dairy industry can help minimize language and cultural barriers so willing workers can learn to handle more responsibility and make New York’s farms stronger.”

Survey

Grusenmeyer and Cornell University colleague Thomas Maloney were the first to report on Hispanic dairy farm labor issues in the northeast in 2005. Grusenmeyer said, “Our survey of farm owners and employees identified language and communication issues as the two of the top challenges on dairy farms.”

In 2007, the NYFVI developed a pilot project to provide dairy owners with access to an educator-trainer well-studied in the dairy industry and Spanish-speaking cultures, and fluent in both English and Spanish.

Project leader Jerry Bertoldo noted, “The cultural aspects of this type of training are a vital aspect of its success. An educator needs to have a skill for putting the Latino employees at ease and gaining their respect with an understanding of their culture, customs and dialect of Spanish.”

Training

Project educator Greg Coffta developed Spanish language training resources on milking parlor protocols, bovine reproduction, herd health, calving and calf care and other topics. Individual training sessions were customized to fit each farm business’s specific needs.

To learn more about the North West New York Dairy, Livestock and Field Crops Team’s new Dairy Hispanic training program, visit the Cornell Cooperative Extension office at 420 E. Main St., Batavia, N.Y. or call 585-343-3040, ext.133.

The team’s bilingual printed resources, including the Spanish language edition of the Calf Manager CD are online here.

Learn more about the New York Farm Viability Institute at www.nyfvi.org.

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