Students with a cause
Oct 01, 2008
by Catherine Merlo
Lenny Polzin just flew in from France yesterday to attend World Dairy Expo. He’s working with CINOR 2008, the Normande International Conference that’s taking place here on the grounds this week. He spent today helping set up the stalls, cows, flooring, tables and chairs, and other exhibit elements in the Normande Pavillion that’s located in Expo’s Trade Mall.
Polzin grew up on a Wisconsin dairy. He’s closely observed agriculture and dairy in Egypt and Morocco as well as France. His family has opened its doors to students from Germany, Ukraine and Macedonia.
And Polzin’s only 21 years old!
|Lenny Polzin helps set up the Normande Pavillion at Expo while on a week-long break from studying dairies in France.
Polzin is involved in a study program through the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. A junior, he’ll be working on French dairies and living with French families until mid-December. In November, he’ll interrupt his French stay to spend time on dairies in Italy and Slovenia. This study-abroad semester contributes to Polzin’s double major of dairy science and agricultural economics.
“When they say agriculture is a global market, it really is true,” says Polzin, who’s attended nearly every World Dairy Expo since he was a child. “Everybody is facing the same problems: high inputs and low prices received.”
Is this polite, well-spoken, young American an oddity? He doesn’t have a visible tattoo. When he talks, he looks you directly in the eye. He has lived outside of his neighborhood and – wonder of wonders – still appears to appreciate and admire people and cultures starkly different from his own. He uses terms like “the food-fuel debate,” “efficient labor” and “management practices.”
With all the attention – at least in Bakersfield, Calif., where I live and work -- on violent gang members, under-performing students and immigrant children who live in poverty, it’s easy to believe that the U.S. is failing to produce a bumper crop of winners. But whenever I come to a show like World Dairy Expo, I am thrilled to know that’s not true.
Young people like Polzin are not an oddity here. They’re the norm. You see them everywhere, grooming cows, standing in the show ring with their cattle, cleaning stalls, chatting in groups. They smile and greet others warmly. They exhibit a hard work ethic, deep-seated responsibility, ingrained civility and the beginnings of advanced education.
Like Kelly Lee, an 18-year-old high school junior from Ft. Atkinson, Wis. Lee is here with her parents. She’s preparing to show her calf Tuesday afternoon in the Winter Jersey Calf Class. Lee has not missed an Expo in her life. She was two weeks old when her parents brought her here for the first time. In two years, Lee will either attend the University of Wisconsin-Madison or Cornell University.
|Kelly Lee (left) and her mother at World Dairy Expo.
“I love seeing people from all across the country here,” says Lee. “And I love how everyone is showing off all they’ve worked for all year. Expo is the culmination of all that hard work and effort.”
Did she say, “culmination”? “Hard work"?
Let these “oddities” keep coming to Expo. Give them a place to put what they’ve learned to work. Let them keep doing what they’re doing. Offer them a forum to show their stuff. Send them to represent us in the rest of the world.
Just don’t let them go to Wall Street.
CINOR Conference and Events
On Sept. 30 and Oct. 1, the CINOR conference will feature panel discussions on:
· Adaptability of the Normande breed to grazing;
· Use of the Normande for crossbreeding purposes;
· Beef qualities of the Normande breed;
· Cheese-making qualities of Normande milk; and
· Perspectives on the future of Normande genetics.
Speakers from around the world will participate in the discussions. For a list of speakers and panel discussion times, visit www.normandegenetics.com/cinor2008.html.