May 16 2019 08:00 AM

It’s easy to forget the impact of environment on work.

Volunteers for Feed My Starving Children getting instructions before work begins.

If you do what you love for a living, you’ll never work a day in your life. I have seen that sentiment written often, especially recently. Maybe because it is graduation time and there is so much pressure to start a career. The true thought of having fun at a job might be reserved for athletes or musical performers, but those of us in agriculture can relate to the message. We must love what we are doing (at least most days), because it can be a struggle financially, physically, and emotionally.

Last weekend, I volunteered at a Feed My Starving Children mobile pack event. Along with 1,200 others, I helped assemble food packages for children living in poverty. Their diets are most often deficient in the nutrients they need for growth and development. Each station packaged rice, soy, vegetables, and a vitamin pack into portable bags for export shipment. The ingredients were specifically balanced by food scientists and nutritionist to meet the needs of children with nutrient-deficient diets. The food was purchased through donations of businesses and individuals in the community. The agencies in the foreign countries cover the shipping costs of the food, but the food and labor to assemble those meals was all donated.

My job was to scoop rice from huge bags that consumed an entire pallet and was about 4 feet tall. It felt no different than using a feed scoop to prepare a cow’s ration at the fair, but for the exception that rice is heavier than grain or beet pulp on a per scoop basis! It was a healthy workout for two 1.5-hour shifts.

As I looked across the county fair exhibit building that had been converted into a temporary warehouse, you could see over 400 people busily working and laughing. The radio was playing and a live band performed during the final shift to the greatest hits of the 1980s. It was very much a party atmosphere; you almost forgot you were working. Well, we were volunteering, but still working. The three shifts prepared 272,000 meals.

The shifts passed quickly and even though my shoulders and back were sore, I could have done more if they needed. I liked what I was doing. Was it the physical exertion? Maybe. A good gym workout releases endorphins that can give us a rush. Was it the thought I was helping others? Sure. My time helped 178 children have a healthy meal for a year. How about the atmosphere? That certainly helped. The upbeat music along with announcements encouraging our progress made our mundane tasks more enjoyable.

We were basically doing routine factory work. One person adds a scoop of this, another a scoop of that, someone closes the bag, and someone carries it off to a pallet. Work was being done by those as young as five. For those unable to lift heavy crates or stand for a prolonged time, there were important roles that could be handled while seated. Everyone’s talents were utilized. The room was hustle and bustle while we packed. No one was idle and a smile was on everyone’s face.

Can we make our workplaces have that same emotional rush of doing good work, collaborating with a variety of people to get a task complete, while genuinely enjoying yourself?

Feed My Starving Children hit all those targets and I congratulate them on their successful event in Wisconsin’s Jefferson County.

Patti Hurtgen

The author is the online media manager and is responsible for the website, webinars, and social media. A graduate of Modesto Junior College and Fresno State, she was raised on a California dairy and frequently blogs on youth programs and consumer issues.