Dairy Channel: Relearning a vital U.S. civics lesson


I love to teach. Every time you teach, you learn something in return.

It may be about the subject matter; it may be something to do to improve my teaching; it may be something not to do to be a better teacher or it may be something from the students or other teachers.

So, I fully expected to learn something new when we kicked off this year’s Dairy Farm Employee Shortcourse. What I learned was both something new and an affirmation of a feeling I have had for some time.

Take it for granted. We, as citizens of the United States, take too much for granted.

Folks, we don’t know how good we have it. We all think there are kinks and bumps in the road in our own lives. There are – and always will be. There are also people who suffer daily in ways I can’t imagine.

But, for most of us who hop or tumble over those bumps in the road, there are opportunities and resources to meet the challenges.

That is what we take for granted: Opportunities to do the simple or the complex.

Go to school, go to a doctor, go to a trade school or college, get a job, vote, criticize the government, run for political office, own property, find a job to support your family and live with them.

Expanding our minds. The majority of students at this year’s Dairy Farm Employee Shortcourse were Hispanic. It was a new way to teach – speaking directly to the non-Hispanic students and indirectly to the Hispanic students through two interpreters.

At the beginning of the two-day workshop, students introduced each other after a short get-acquainted session.

Having had the opportunity to visit dairy farms across the country for the past 15 years, I know that Hispanic employees play an important role on dairy farms today. Chats with West Coast dairymen years ago dispelled the corn belt myth that Hispanic employees are “cheaper.”

As a whole, Hispanic workers offer the dairy industry reliable employees that fill many jobs that local labor markets will not.

That said, the course offered the opportunity to meet the people behind the workforce. And the people we met were dedicated, interesting employees working here to support their families back home.

Not a surprise.

Sacrifices. What was a surprise was that most of these men had young children they had not seen for one, two, four years. Why? Not because they didn’t care and didn’t want to be there, but because they didn’t have the opportunity to work for a good wage at home to support their families.

Sure, sometimes we have to move to different parts of Ohio or the United States to get a job that will pay adequately to raise a family, but leave the country?

The nonrenegade American working out of the country is usually either in the military or in an exchange or internship program. A few renegade types are lured by the promise of big bucks to work in remote or hostile locations.

Most of us choose to stay home because we have that opportunity.

Educational opportunities. Another surprise came when we evaluated the program. We learned that school is not required or available to many children in South American countries. Consequently, literacy is a privilege, not a right.

According to the interpreters, a high school education almost guarantees you a good job at home. Less than that and your best opportunities lie across the border.

While our kids may complain about having to go to school (and my boys have informed me daily for the past month exactly how many days are left until summer vacation), they have a huge opportunity we take for granted.

The United States was founded as the land of opportunity. As we get caught up in the daily challenges of cows, crops, weather, family and community, we need to step back and be grateful for the many, many opportunities we have here.

Then we must step forward to support and protect those opportunities.

(The author is the northeast Ohio district dairy specialist with OSU Extension. Send comments or questions in care of Farm and Dairy, P.O. Box 38, Salem, OH 44460.)


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