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The Student News Site of Fresno Christian High School

The Feather

The Student News Site of Fresno Christian High School

The Feather

Letter to the Editor

Dairy demands divergent responsibilities

While many students wake up to car horns, train whistles or the occasional neighborhood kid basketball game, few experience noiseless mornings only the rural atmosphere can offer.

Renee Idsigna, ’08, appreciates the pastoral peace of living on her 1,500-cow dairy near Kerman, approximately 40 minutes away from the outskirts of Fresno.

“It is nice not living in a neighborhood,” Idsigna said. “I don’t have neighbors and there isn’t a grocery store down the street, but it does get messy when it rains and the dairy smells bad.”

According to the Central Valley Business Times’ Jan. 18, 2007, article, Tougher dairy regulations urged for Fresno County, approximately 150,000 cows inhabit Fresno County, contributing to a rainy day stench in February.

Like Idsigna, Luke DeGroot, `09, has lived on a dairy his whole life. He often spends spare time participating in recreational activities on his family’s dairy, the DeGroot Family Dairy. This 2,500-acre dairy near Easton is home to cows, acres of alfalfa, corn and oats.

“The fun stuff you can do out here is endless,” DeGroot said. “Motorcycles, bonfires and hunting are some of the things we do for fun. It’s nice at the end of the day to get away from people, traffic and noise and just go home.”

While city students may be required to do chores such as cleaning dishes or making their bed, responsibilities seem to increase for students who live on a dairy.

“During the school year I don’t have many responsibilities, because school keeps me busy,” DeGroot said, “but during the summer, I usually get new responsibilities that last for the summer. The past few years me and my brother have been responsible for the cleaning and upkeep of our maternity barn, which is the birthing center.”

His brother, Tim (’11), is responsible for chores such as cleaning animal pens and putting out salt blocks. Tim’s chores even include obscure duties such as helping birth cows.

While most students do not come into contact with newborn animals on a regular basis, Tim does not seem fazed by it. Last summer, he pulled a baby calf out of his mother’s womb.

Tim believes the worst part is the smell left on his clothes. However, rather than dashing to the shower, he who worked 25-30 hours, to finish his work in the fields.

“It was weird to birth a cow,” Tim said. “It’s difficult to work with cows, but it’s a learning experience. Sometimes I drive John Deere loaders or big tractors for other people. I enjoy the fresh air and being able to do things outside without bugging other people. Farm life is a lot more open and spacious, and the work doesn’t cut into my school.”

Teens who live on dairy only occupy a small percentage of students on campus. Taylor Schafer, `11, lives in Fresno and has responsibilities around her house. She feeds her dog, cleans the kitchen and bathrooms, dusts, mops, sweeps and vacuums, which occupies at least two hours per week.

“I hate feeding the dog because it makes my hands smell like dog food,” Schafer said, “and I hate vacuuming because it makes a loud noise. My little sister doesn’t even have to do chores. I get really frustrated.”

Similar to the most, the DeGroot brothers juggle home life with academic studies. On top of homework, they look for new information about farming techniques and technology. In Tulare, CA, the World Ag Expo showcases the work of farmers and diary workers from around the Central Valley during the second week of February.

“This year the World Ag Expo was really great,” Tim said. “My whole family went this year and walked the whole thing. Going to the farm show is a great experience to see all different types of equipment and cultures in this world.”

Stephen Mascarenas, a farm labor advisor, also attends the World Ag Expo each year.

“Seminars were available to teach about new technology,” Mascarenas said. “I like to go and see exhibits and what new services are available.”

Not only do the DeGroots agree with Mascarenas challenges of working on a dairy, but both prefer outside of the city.

“I enjoy the opportunity to move around,” Mascarenas said, “and the freedom of being outdoors, but Mother Nature will throw you a curve and you’re at her mercy. Back when I was a kid, you were competing for your neighbor for your dollar; now you’re competing with people from all over the world.”

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