April 13 2023 09:34 AM

Over time, I have learned that every job and every task on the farm matters.

“It’s not my job.”

Those words just make you cringe, right?

I’m guilty, though. Growing up on the farm, I started working at a very young age feeding calves and running around, trailing my dad. I acted like I was the one, at 13 years old, hooking up a planter, baling hay, or breeding cows when in all reality, I was just watching and learning. The more knowledge I gained, the more I wanted to do those tasks, and the more I knew, the more my dad let me be a part of those things.

As a middle schooler and high schooler, I had an itch to do more than my normal jobs of feeding calves, taking out trash, cleaning bathrooms, sweeping, and cleaning out hutches. I thought of it as boring and dull work. At that age, I felt I knew more than the other kids working on the farm and should be doing something different than those daily tasks that were so repetitive. I am definitely guilty of telling my dad or uncle, “That’s someone else’s job.” I’d get that “look” in response, tuck my tail, and go do whatever it was that they were asking. They always told me that one day I would realize how important those jobs were.

Now that I am older, I realize all that repetitive work is just as important as the rest. At the time, I didn’t see my dad doing those things, and I wanted to be like him. My young and naïve self didn’t realize that after I went home, my dad and uncle stayed and checked everything behind us, picking up the slack of anything we missed. Or when we weren’t there, they were scrubbing the toilets, mopping, and cleaning out stalls. My vision back then was very narrow, and my priorities were completely off.

When I was in college, I took a business management class with an extremely good professor. I will never forget the first day of class. The professor said if you ever manage a business and expect your employees to do tasks that you are not willing to do or show them that you are willing to do, then you will never manage a business that has a low turnover rate and your staff will lack respect. I will never forget hearing him say that. It is a staple in the way I try and manage employees.

Now I hire high schoolers to work on the farm, and after a while, I see them feel the same way. I have heard that cringeworthy statement from certain employees over the years, usually younger ones. I take a deep breath and remember that I once felt that way, too, because I lacked the knowledge of the importance of these tasks. I explain to them that we wouldn’t have a successful business without these things being done. Caring for calves, mopping floors, cleaning toilets, and taking out the trash — all of these tasks are just as important as the rest.

We are a team, and it’s all of our jobs.

Caitlin and Mark Rodgers

Mark and Caitlin Rodgers are dairy farmers in Dearing, Georgia. The Rodgers have a 400-cow dairy that averages 32,000 pounds of milk. Follow their family farm on Facebook at Hillcrest Farms Inc.