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South Dakota communities make effort to welcome dairy workers
Welcoming workers

South Dakota communities make effort to welcome dairy workers

Jorge

Jorge, who recently arrived from Mexico and asked that his last name not be used, works in the milking parlor of a dairy farm in northern Buffalo County. Jorge is among the estimated 51 percent of all dairy workers nationwide who are immigrants.

A recent project led by a University of Nebraska researcher made efforts understand community welcoming and integration of agricultural workers in Beresford, Centerville and Viborg, South Dakota.

“Many times, immigrants are drawn to rural communities for jobs in agriculture,” said Chris Maxwell, executive director of the Central Plains Dairy Foundation. “They play an important role in our South Dakota dairies and we want to make sure they feel like part of the community in which they live.”

The Central Plains Dairy Foundation awarded a Dairy Innovators Grant to a project called “Community Welcoming and Integration in Rural South Dakota” led by Athena Ramos, PhD, of the University of Nebraska.

After ample dairy industry research, community member surveys and interviews with immigrant agricultural workers and leaders in the respective communities, Ramos and her team offered recommendations to improve integration.

Some of these recommendations have already been implemented in Beresford.

One of the local churches offers a weekly Spanish service. The Mexican restaurant in Centerville opened a second location in Beresford. The school has an ESL (English as a second language) teacher as well as two other teachers that are fluent in Spanish, and the school is also working on a grant to further its ESL offerings.

The Dairy Innovations Grant was created as a funding source for nonprofit organizations leading the way in providing innovative programs and solutions to challenges facing the people of dairy and the future of the industry.

The Central Plains Dairy Foundationlooks for projects addressing economic development, community development, workforce development, or industry promotional need that are inclusive, collaborative and effective. Grant awards range from $500 to $10,000 and will be awarded to projects focusing on Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota or South Dakota.

Applications for the next round of grant funding must be submitted by Jan. 31. More information is available online at centralplainsdairyfoundation.org, by calling 605-412-8403 or emailing foundation@centralplainsdairyexpo.com.

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