Young African Leaders Tour Bridgewater Dairy

END OF THE DAY … The tour group of the Young African Leaders group posed for a photo at the end of their time at Bridgewater Dairy. (PHOTO BY JAMES PRUITT)

By: James Pruitt

A group of college students from all across Africa visited Williams County recently to learn about ways two local businesses operated. The group was with the 2017 Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders. Partnered with Bowling Green State University, the effort puts 25 emerging African leaders for a six-week academic and leadership institute sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Mandela Washington Fellowship (https://yali.state.gov/washington-fellowship/) and BGSU.

The YALI fellows came from 19 African countries: Angola, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Mauritania, Mauritius, Namibia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. “The goal of the BGSU Civic Leadership Institute is to create lasting partnerships between Mandela Washington Fellows and Americans, to facilitate enduring networks, of mutual learning and strategic cooperation,” said Christopher Frey, co-director of the Institute and professor in the College of Education and Human Development. “We look forward to engaging these young leaders with partners in Northwest Ohio.”

As part of this institute, the fellows participated in site visits, community service opportunities and networking activities across northwest Ohio, including Williams County’s CK Technologies and Bridgewater Dairy, and the Migrant Education Center Summer program at Delta Elementary School in Delta. The institute draws on the experience of the fellows, BGSU faculty and students, and local and regional partners to explore four topics of mutual concern: migration/refugee/human trafficking, youth poverty, civic leadership and engagement, and women’s rights/minority rights/disability.

“We hope that peer-to-peer interactions around critical community issues will help both the Fellows and regional professionals and their organizations to gain new insights and strategies for civic leadership and action,” V Jane Rosser, co-director of the Institute and director of the Center for Community & Civic Engagement, said.

The site visits will bring the fellows’ classroom sessions to life by putting them in contact with a variety of leaders that are eager to share their knowledge and expertise, and who look forward to learning about the fellows’ interests. Community service/service learning activities are designed to expose fellows to the diverse service culture in the United States, giving them the opportunity to meet and collaborate with Americans from a range of backgrounds and interests toward a common goal.

Fellows will also have the opportunity to engage, network, and share experiences with local professionals, and to build international relationships with Americans.“Such relationships are critical in today’s global society” said Kefa Otiso, Co-Director of the Institute and professor in the School of Earth, Environment, and Society, College of Arts and Sciences.”

The team visited Bridgewater Dairy farm in Montpelier, Ohio to learn the ins and outs of a modern dairy farm. They also learned about the environmental challenges of large agricultural enterprises. A former professor from California, Leon Weaver, Ph.D., led the tour and took the group and members of the media on a journey to show various aspects of the operation. The tour included stops at the milking station where all 3,000 head of cattle are milked three times a day.

There was a trip through one barn where the cows spend their days eating and resting between milking. Another barn included an area for pregnant cows to give birth and get their calves ready for life. There was an area of that barn where the newborn calves are tagged and removed from their mothers before being shipped off to another farm to grow up. The separation is necessary to prevent the bovine version of Cohn’s Disease, Weaver said.

The tour finished at the dairy’s offices and the students were treated to samples of the Fairlife Milk line produced by the dairy and marketed by Coca-Cola. The milk includes extra protein and helps the dairy find a new revenue stream.

Bridgewater Dairy and its co-op supplies all the milk needs for Kroger and Meijer in several states, Weaver said. The tour participants were impressed for the most part with the operation, although some were a bit out of their elements as their specialized area had no connections to agriculture.


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