Overcoming The Language Barrier
January 23, 2009
Many greenhouse workers are of Hispanic origin and have little or no formal education in plant production. But how do you present simple yet essential knowledge of pest detection and monitoring to a staff that speaks mostly Spanish? Carlos Bográn, associate professor and Extension specialist at Texas A&M University, will lead a discussion on breaking down the language barrier at the 25th annual Pest Management Conference, and he recently shared a couple of thoughts about his topic with us.
Is there an easy way to overcome the language barrier when dealing with tasks as complex as pest detection and monitoring?
"I do not know about easy but showing the insect or disease symptom and demonstrating where and how to look for them will go a long way. It is always easier to find something if we already know what to look for and where it may be found."
Is there a greenhouse grower in the state of Texas setting the example for implementing an effective worker education program for Hispanics? What is that grower doing that works so well?
"There are several, including Color Spot Growers, Seville Farms, Hines Horticulture-Houston, Ellison's Greenhouses and Green Valley Growers. They're acknowledging the benefits of entry and mid-level worker education programs in building capacity within their operations, investing the necessary time and obtaining resources and expertise from industry and university personnel to help deliver such programs.
"For example, Texas AgriLife Extension Service has established a great partnership with Syngenta to sponsor periodic educational programs at grower operations with great success."
What suggestions do you have for growers struggling to overcome the language barrier?
"Workers will value any effort as it shows commitment to their professional development, but do not hesitate to look for outside help. Many state university Extension specialists have developed or are developing training resources in Spanish that may be available. Look for regional or national grower education events that include sessions in Spanish. Identify worker-leaders who may be able to pass down key concepts, information and techniques to the rest of the crew."
Bográn is scheduled to present on strengthening workforce education when language is a barrier from 4:45-5:15 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 20. He'll present with Jan Hall of Paul Ecke Ranch. The conference takes place from Feb. 19-21 in San Jose, Calif.
For more information on Pest Management Conference, presented by Society of American Florists and Greenhouse Grower, visit www.pestconference.org.