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Latinos in dairy: Creating a better understanding

Becky Rodriguez for Progressive Dairy Published on 11 November 2019

It has been made quite clear over the past couple of decades that Latinos are of a growing importance in our nation’s dairy industry.

Not only are Latinos crucial as employees of dairy operations, but more Latinos are moving into management and ownership roles. There’s another very important fact to consider: Latinos are a fast-growing minority in the United States, and they bring some great buying power with them. As our industry evolves and becomes more diverse, it’s important we learn to evolve with it.

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According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Hispanics constitute 18.3% of the population, a number that has been trending up for years, as well as having over $1.7 trillion in buying power. In fact, in 2016, Latinos accounted for 12% of total U.S. dairy sales. The Latino community accounts for a growing portion of those employed in the dairy industry, particularly on larger farms. These growing numbers would lead me to believe we must understand this growing portion of our industry.

There is much to be said about “bridging the gap.” In fact, I think as an employer or manager, that should a top priority. In this instance, bridging the gap essentially refers to breaking down the barriers between cultures. Many of the barriers include language differences, varying education levels and cultural differences. So many issues arise on the farm because there are not clear communication methods, or the employees don’t feel like they can talk to management. It is important to be equipped to handle any language or cultural barriers that may arise. It is best to either work with a company, or have an employee, that can provide translations to help ease any language barriers. Important aspects of bridging the gap are keeping communication lines open, ensuring you have a great training protocol and holding regular employee meetings. It is also very important to have all materials (verbal trainings and written materials) available in both English and Spanish. Online translating programs, though good for some circumstances, generally don’t translate documents well, particularly when they contain dairy-specific words. It’s best to have a translator who is knowledgeable in the dairy industry translate them so they are worded in a way that will be most easily understood by your employees.

Another important consideration is that there are many sub-cultures within the Latino community. Latino is a very broad term that refers to any descendants of Latin America. The term Latino generally includes countries in Central and South America, as well as some Caribbean islands. Every country has its individual cultures and customs, and those can vary even within one country. Consequentially, to talk about cultural differences as a whole can be quite challenging as no two people are the same. Truly, the end goal for any employer, no matter where employees originate from, should be to create a happy, peaceful and rewarding place to work. This comes down to good management, good policies, safe environment and, most importantly, excellent communication.  end mark

Becky Rodriguez is with AgriStaff USA.

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