Hendrik Huisman: My year on a Polish dairy farm
Last year I was chosen by the Texas Association of Dairymen to be sponsored for a trip to Poland through the Texas-Poland Young Farmer Exchange Program offered throughTexas A&M University.
During my stay, I was required to work and travel for five weeks. This trip to Poland far exceeded my expectations, from the beautiful scenery to the absolutely amazing people I would meet in these few weeks, which seemed to go by almost too fast.
My host family was the Chojnowska family, who milked 50 cows on a dairy in a small town near the city of Zambrov in eastern Poland. They also grew wheat, corn and grass silage for the cows, all on about 80 acres. While on their farm, my job consisted mainly of feeding cows, but I was also available for any other job they had. Having grown up on a dairy in Stephenville, I was not unfamiliar with the daily work that would have to be done.
Aside from the work on the farm, I was also given a lot of free time to go and travel throughout Poland, from hiking the Tatra Mountains on the southern border, to swimming in the Baltic Sea in the north. I also visited many cities including Krakow, Olsztyn, Warsaw, Bialystok and many small towns in between. Throughout the stay I also visited many other farms and agricultural companies.
My biggest takeaway from Poland would have to be the people I met and the friendships I made. Most people I came across in Poland could understand English enough to make sense of what you were saying, but not everyone. It was never a problem though because, as I soon found out, the seemingly endless amounts of vodka made for an excellent translator when Wi-Fi was not available!
The country was undergoing massive industrial projects, the main one seemed to be an interstate system of roads to connect the country from corner to corner. Another change noticed was in the agricultural sector, where subsidies were given by the European Union at 60 percent for new buildings or facilities. Due to this, there was a diversity of new and advanced facilities, to the older tie stalls. It was not uncommon to see robotic milkers in many of the facilities, either.
This was an unforgettable five weeks, and I was blessed to stay with such an amazing family and make great friends, who offered me the best experience I could imagine during my stay. I’m sure to say that I’ll have to visit them all again one day!