T he Michigan dairy industry has been growing for the last few years, but a new statewide study says production may soon be slowed due to a shrinking workforce.
F arms around the state have seen an increase in demand for their milk , but many of these farms say they are struggling to find qualified workers to fill open jobs.
" It's dirty work, sometimes it's hard work , it's long hours , and of course they have to be trained and ready to do it ," Marv Rubingh, Rubingh's Dairyland farmer said.
A t Rubingh's Dairyland in Ellsworth, it's a family affair. Kids are raised to work on the farm from an early age.
M arv Rubingh says he has never had issues finding people to work, but he would understand where other farms may struggle.
" There are labor positions that don't take a lot of training and then there's management and physicians dealing with government regulation s and that does take a lot of training ," Rubingh said.
M any of these jobs are going unfilled. W hile there are dairy education programs at some high schools and colleges , instructors find that students just aren't interested.
" I think there is just a lack of Interest in farming or dairy specific al ly ," Becky Scholl-Stauffer, Petoskey High School farm science teacher said.
S choll- S tauffer says over the last 20 years interest in agriculture and dairy careers have faded.
" It's difficult to get kids interested for one they know nothing about it and two, labor-intensive jobs they aren't used to it ," Scholl-Stauffer said.
S ince many younger people are not filling these jobs , farmers are now looking towards alternative outlets.
O ne of the options that is frequently brought up among the farming community is somehow drawing more legal immigrants to Michigan farms.
" They do know how to work there willing to work hard in a lot of times they're willing to work on farm and learn how to do i t," Rubingh said.
The study was released by the Agriculture Leaders of Michigan and was conducted by Michigan State University and the Michigan Milk Producers Association.