Some dairies have a staff of four people, while others have a staff of 100 people. I can say, though, that most dairy staffs are like family. Whether they are blood related or not, we are all a family. You’ll have some employees who are like your brothers and sisters, some who are like uncles and aunts, and some who are like grandparents to you.
Every now and again you’ll get a new team member who doesn’t quite know their way around the dairy yet. In those cases, we all come together to push them in the right direction. It gets hot and humid here, and sometimes when its 95°F outside and you’ve been working in it for nine hours, something can come along and aggravate you. Or you might get stuck on something that you can’t quite figure out, and a lot of times it’s easy to take it out on a coworker. It happens to all of us. But I’ve worked on different dairies, and on most of those the employees come together to figure things out.
When I was in college I worked for the University of Georgia (UGA) Dairy in Tifton, Ga. When I started out, I was scared and anxious. I was so used to working on my family's dairy that I figured it would be a lot different. I didn’t know a soul with whom I worked with. But shortly I found out it’s all the same. The family-like connection was there, and everyone worked together for the same goals. My work family there was just like it was on our home farm – they were like my brothers and sisters. That’s the kind of work environment family-owned dairy farms have.
There isn’t another career like dairy farming. There are long hours and all the days that you come together as one for the same outcome — happy cows and high-quality milk. You’re bound to become one unit. I wouldn’t trade my staff for anything. And I’ll love them just like they are my own family.
Mark and Caitlin Rodgers are dairy farmers in Dearing, Georgia. Their “Father and Daughter Dairy Together” column appears every other Thursday on HD Notebook. The Rodgers have a 400-cow dairy that averages 32,000 pounds of milk. Follow their family farm on Facebook at Hillcrest Farms Inc.