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And You Thought Two Languages Were Confusing!

Libby Eiholzer, Bilingual Dairy
Northwest New York Dairy, Livestock & Field Crops

June 14, 2013

If there are Hispanic employees on your farm, chances are that you've come across more than one individual who speaks Spanish as his or her second language. Although Spanish is now the official language of Mexico and all Central American countries, numerous indigenous languages were spoken by the native peoples before Spanish was introduced in the early 1500s. With time Spanish was adopted as the common language, but many indigenous languages have survived over the centuries.<

To recognize just how complex the situation is, you have to appreciate the number of indigenous languages that are still spoken. In Guatemala (which is roughly equal in size to Tennessee), 23 indigenous languages are spoken today. In Mexico 63 still exist. While the majority of Mexicans (97%) and Guatemalans (93%) do speak Spanish, many people who are raised in indigenous communities don't learn Spanish until they attend school. Most indigenous languages are completely unique and have nothing in common with each other; learning Qeqchi won't help you to understand a word of Poqomam!

In general, the upper classes in both Mexico and Guatemala are composed of lighter skinned people of Spanish or mixed Spanish-indigenous heritage, while the lower classes are composed of darker skinned people of predominantly indigenous heritage. This social distribution inherently lends itself to discrimination. The attitudes of the governments in both Guatemala and Mexico have also helped to foster a culture of discrimination towards indigenous people. An extreme example of this is the genocide carried out by the Guatemalan government during the civil war (1960-1996) in which 200,000 people (mostly indigenous) were killed.

So what does this mean for your dairy? If your Hispanic employees come from a variety of backgrounds, there may be some additional communication difficulties for those who don't speak Spanish well. Finding a translator who speaks the specific indigenous language of your employee(s) is not a practical solution because there are simply too many languages. Providing SOPs not only in Spanish, but also with pictures, giving hands-on training and routinely monitoring employee performance are strategies that can help you to ensure that these employees understand their duties on the farm.

While discrimination does not always occur, it is definitely something to be aware of when observing the interactions between Hispanic employees. Two Mexican employees may look very similar to an American employer, and yet they may actually come from very different cultural backgrounds. (By the same token, a Mexican employee probably wouldn't know the difference between a herdsman of German heritage and a feeder of Polish heritage!)

You may not be able to communicate with some employees in their first language, but you're more likely to get through to them using their second language than their third! Please feel free to contact me if you're interested in dairy skills training or employee management services for your Spanish-speaking employees.











calendar of events

Upcoming Events

Weed Resistance Management Demonstration and Plot Tour

Event Offers DEC Credits

July 23, 2019
1:00 - 3:00 p.m.
Waterloo, NY

Come join us on July 23 in Seneca County at Quinten Good's farm for a demonstration and walking tour of 16 different pre- and post-emergence treatments in soybean and 12 different treatments and combinations in corn.
  • Tall waterhemp and marestail are two weeds that are resistant to glyphosate and ALS herbicide modes of action in the WNY and Finger Lakes regions.
  • Each year the number of acres with resistant weed populations expands.
  • For herbicides to be an effective tool in weed management, we have to know what chemistries & application timings are most effective against these resistant weeds.

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Income and Real Property Tax Primer-A Learning Circle for Women Non-Operating Land Owners of Ag Land

July 24, 2019
9:00 am - 3:00 pm
Portageville, NY

For many of us taxes can be a mystery, let's have a conversation with the experts about the tax considerations agricultural landowners need to think about. 
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Pasture Walk with the Finger Lakes Graziers-Cancelled!

July 29, 2019
12:45 - 4 pm

The Finger Lakes Graziers pasture walk has been cancelled due to some scheduling conflicts. 
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RMA Announces Additional One-time Changes to Prevented Planting Provisions

June 29, 2019

RMA Announces Additional One-time Changes to Prevented Planting Provisions
for 2019 Crop Year

In response to delayed and prevented planting resulting from above average rainfall and wetness, the USDA Risk Management Agency has made a one-time change to the 2019 crop year prevented planting rules that effectively allows silage corn, if planted as a cover crop following local agricultural expert guidelines, to be acceptable as a post-prevented planting cover crop. Under this one-time rule change, producers are allowed to produce this crop while retaining their prevented planting payment. This change couples with previously announced one-time changes to the prevented planting rules - including expanded acceptable uses for post-prevented planting cover crops and a change in the cover crop haying and grazing start date rule - serve to help those struggling to meet their forage needs due to the weather.

Read the full article from the New York Crop Insurance Education Program.

The USDA-RMA states that "For crop insurance purposes, a cover crop is a crop generally recognized by agricultural experts as agronomically sound for the area for erosion control or other purposes related to conservation or soil improvement." PRO-DAIRY specialists Joe Lawrence and Karl Czymmek and Dr. Quirine Ketterings, Professor and Director of Cornell Nutrient Management Spear Program have released a letter stating "Corn on Prevented Planting acres meets these objectives."

New Guidance for Mortality Disposal Issued

NYS Department of Ag and Markets has posted guidelines on disposal of livestock carcasses, in response to reports that some rendering companies have halted pickups from farms.|1