Libby Gaige Batavia, New York Bilingual Dairy Specialist The North West New York Dairy, Livestock and Field Crops Team (Cornell University Cooperative Extension)
What education are you bringing with you to this position?
I graduated from Cornell University with a bachelor's degree in animal science and a minor in Spanish.
Please describe your agricultural background.
I grew up on a 400-cow dairy farm in the Finger Lakes region of New York. I was always interested and involved in the family farm and really developed a passion for the dairy industry as a whole while studying at Cornell University. Internships during college on a heifer ranch in Spain and a progressive dairy in New York taught me many skills in herd management.
I also had the opportunity to compete in National Dairy Challenge during my senior year of college, which gave me a better understanding of the problem-solving and decision-making aspects of dairy farming.
What territory will you cover?
I cover a ten-county region in western New York, with occasional travel to other areas in the state.
What are your new responsibilities?
My job is to facilitate better communication between dairy managers and their Spanish-speaking employees, which is accomplished in part by developing and delivering training programs, reference manuals and standard operating procedures.
What previous positions have you held?
After graduation, I served in the Peace Corps as a sustainable agriculture volunteer for two years. Living and working in a rural village in Guatemala taught me a lot about the culture that Spanish-speaking dairy workers in New York come from and gave me an insight into the lives they leave behind to come to the U.S.
What excites you most about working in your new role?
I consider this a great opportunity to work in a vibrant agricultural region of the country on a wide variety of farms, each with its own distinctive management style. Being able to speak Spanish on a daily basis is an added bonus!
How will you be of most help to producers in your region or area of expertise?
Collaborating with other Cornell University and Cooperative Extension staff as well as local agribusiness professionals helps me to provide dairy producers and their employees with high quality workshops and materials.
Why did you choose this organization?
The job qualifications and my skills and experience seem to line up perfectly. It allows me to work with people who truly care about the dairy industry and are empowering producers to improve their businesses.
What goals would you like to accomplish while in this position?
My main goal is to help producers and their Spanish-speaking employees understand each other. Language and cultural barriers can be difficult to overcome but reaching a higher level of communication will help both the producer and the employee be happier and more productive. PD