October 26, 2020 at 6:14 p.m.

A learning experience

Two women from India wrap up year on Iowa dairy farm
Ankita Rani (left) and Arubam Mona milk cows at the Brimeyers’ 480-cow dairy near Sherrill, Iowa. The two women from India spent a year with the Brimeyers to learn about agriculture in the United States. PHOTO SUBMITTED
Ankita Rani (left) and Arubam Mona milk cows at the Brimeyers’ 480-cow dairy near Sherrill, Iowa. The two women from India spent a year with the Brimeyers to learn about agriculture in the United States. PHOTO SUBMITTED

By Sherry Newell- | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

    SHERRILL, Iowa – They had no idea what to expect when they left India for Iowa, but after a year on the Brimeyer dairy farm near Sherrill, Ankita Rani and Arubam Mona are leaving with an experience they said they will remember forever.
    The 23-year-old women completed a year-long internship at the farm Sept. 30, after studying at Dolphin PG College of Life Sciences and Agriculture in Punjab, India. They were matched with the Brimeyers through Communicating for Agriculture Exchange Programs based in Fergus Falls, Minnesota. The Brimeyers heard about the program from a neighbor.
    “We checked into it because we could not find reliable help. We milk at 3:30 a.m. and needed people we could rely on,” said Judy Brimeyer, who runs the dairy with her husband, Rick, and their son and daughter-in-law, Matt and Jessy.
    Rani and Mona arrived in the fall of 2019.
    “We knew the United States has great technology, and we could learn from being here and apply that knowledge (in India),” Mona said.  
    It felt chilly to them upon arrival in Dubuque, said Rani, but only in terms of the weather. She said the Brimeyers welcomed them warmly.
    “They took us out to dinner, and we got to know them,” Rani said. “Everybody was so friendly. Now we are part of the family.”
    Just like many members of dairy families, they lived on the farm and rose at 3:30 a.m. to milk 480 cows. After milking, they could learn more about the farm or enjoy downtime. Then, it was back to the parlor at 3:30 p.m.
    “They seemed to catch on very fast to their jobs,” Rick said.
    The dairy provided wages and housing, while sharing American culture.
    The women visited DairyLab Services, an apple orchard, a greenhouse, a goat farm, a processing plant and other agricultural businesses. Their arrival coincided with the 2019 World Dairy Expo, which meant one of their first experiences was a trip to Madison, Wisconsin.
    The women became familiar with how a typical Iowa dairy operates – different in many ways from those in India. Rani said the Indian culture includes treating cows as sacred animals and letting them die naturally. At her college’s 150-cow dairy farm, there is an area for cows retired from the herd. Across the country, cows are often taken care of by the community.
    “In every town, there is a special place for an old cow, especially in northern India,” Rani said. “In the south, people do eat beef, so maybe 5% of the cows go to the butcher.”  
    Rani’s favorite role at the Brimeyer dairy was attaching the milking units and cleaning the parlor. Mona preferred working on the end of the rotation, checking cows for problems. She also enjoyed feeding calves.
    Mona took note of a key difference in how milk from treated cows is handled.
    “Here, farmers are concerned about milk quality and making sure antibiotics are not in the milk,” she said. “In India, we do not worry about that.”
    While here, Mona began drinking milk, something she had not done in India.
    Mona also discovered how dairies use nutritionists and balance the dairy cows’ diets. She said she hopes to put that knowledge to use in India, where both she and Rani will pursue masters degrees in agronomics. Eventually, Mona hopes to start a medium-sized dairy with her father.
    Rani said their craziest Iowa experience was in March, when a tornado left the Brimeyer farm with significant damage.
    “I was upstairs when the storm started,” Rani said. “Then the lights went off and we heard the wind. We could see stuff flying here and there. When the storm stopped, Judy shouted for us, and we saw all this disaster. Everyone was worried.”
    The family included the women in holiday and family gatherings, which Judy said she found enjoyable.
    “I just enjoyed hearing about their culture and what they do with their families,” Judy said. “They tell me young people are very respectful of their elders there. They called us ‘Ma’am’ and ‘Sir;’ that’s how they were raised. We in America have lost that.”
    Mona said she was disappointed to learn how many elderly people here live alone. She said families of several generations stay together in India.  
    But she also said the experience in eastern Iowa was amazing.
    “Each and every one of the family helped us,” Mona said. “They were very patient. We thank them and the people in Dubuque and Sherrill. We now have a family in America where we can go any time. We have a house and parents here. Thanks for a great experience.”
    The CAEP model normally includes 30 days of travel as the year ends, but the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has prevented that for the women. Instead, they are camping, horseback riding, attending a wedding, shopping and finding other activities to finish out their experience.
    The Brimeyers planned to begin another year of CAEP participation this year, but they said the United States government is not allowing new placements for now. And although they enjoyed hosting Rani and Mona, they do not expect to visit them in their home country.
    “We’re homebodies,” Judy said. “Maybe if we retire.”


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