Creating Positive Workplaces: A Guidebook for Dairy Producers

The New York dairy industry currently relies heavily on workers of Hispanic origin, principally from Guatemala and Mexico. As such, language barriers and cultural differences have created significant communication issues between employers and employees, which can impede farm productivity. To address and overcome these workplace barriers, we developed this manual, Creating Positive Workplaces: A Guidebook for Dairy Farm Employers. This guidebook provides recommendations, team-building approaches, and practical tools to refashion workplace communication approaches with a culturally diverse workforce. Moreover, the strategies included in this guidebook are intended to diminish widespread concerns regarding labor shortages and high worker turnover. 

Cow standing by itself in a muddy pen

Bilingual support & emergency assistance phone bank

To receive support or ask any question, please call us or send us a text message at 607-224-8821. Please include your full name, city you live in, and your phone number. Our program will be in contact with you directly as quickly as possible. 

The Cornell Farmworker Program offers support in the following areas: 

  • Legal aid
  • Emergency assistance
  • Physical and mental health
  • Education 
  • Financial help
  • Labor
  • Programs for families
  • Victim support
  • Housing
  • Leadership training
  • Transportation
  • Translations
  • Religious services
  • Elderly services
  • Referrals to other agencies

You can also visit our interactive map (English and Spanish) which shows hundreds of emergency support, health and other services throughout the state of New York. Check out the interactive map in English or Spanish.

Man standing in a field of knee-high leafy green crops

Resources for Farmers & Farmworkers

To address farmworker needs, the Cornell Farmworker Program (CFP), along with the Upstate Immigration Project of the Legal Aid Society, has developed videos, publications, and educational workshops about immigration policies, emergency planning and driving laws. These resources inform farmworkers about state and federal law and advise individuals about proper interactions with local police and immigration officials.

Immigration Resources

  • Bilingual Authorization to Pick up Paycheck.  This bilingual document will allow a spouse or another trusted individual to pick up the paycheck for a person who is unable to do so themselves.
  • Derechos de los Inmigrantes (Immigrants’ Rights) DVD: A Spanish language skit that provides information about ways to respond, if detained by a law enforcement official. For ordering information, contact the Cornell Farmworker Program at farmworkers [at] or 607-255-5194.
  • Immigrant rights and emergency planning: The Cornell Farmworker Program (CFP) conducts on-farm workshops on immigrant rights and emergency planning. Get the flyer.
  • Immigration Facts: Details what immigration authorities can and cannot legally do. Use these facts as guidelines. Immigration authorities do not always follow these procedures in cases of “reasonable suspicion.” Get the English fact sheet or Spanish fact sheet.
  • Know your rights: On-farm workshops utilize Spanish language DVDs. Read more about CFP Spanish language skits
  • Parental Designation of Temporary Guardianship for US Born Children (in Spanish and English): Used to give authority to other individual(s) to care for child(ren) if you are unable to do so. Click here for the Parental Designation form.
  • Parental Permission for child to travel (Emergency Planning Forms: Parental Permission for Child to Travel). Click here for the permission form.
  • Pest Management for Farmers and Farmworkers: Spanish and English language DVD that explore low cost pest management strategies. Click here to order the DVD.
  • Power of Attorney: Forms to give authority to another to act on your behalf for financial and legal decisions. Click here for the Power of Attorney form.
  • Referral Card: Clearly states your right to remain silent and your right to an attorney, in the event of questioning or detainment. Includes phone numbers for Legal Aid Society and the Mexican and Guatemalan Consulates and the Cornell Farmworker Program. Click here for the referral card.

Student and local volunteers travel to local farms to tutor farmworkers in English. Using materials provided by the Cornell Farmworker Program, tutors provide support to improve their grammar, reading, writing, and pronunciation skills to better communicate with their employers and in the general community. These sessions also aid farmworkers in their interactions at the store and hospital.

By Mary Kate MacKenzie, Farm Business Management Specialist; Richard Stup, Agricultural Workforce Specialist; and Mary Jo Dudley, Director of the Cornell Farmworker Program, originally published on the South Central NY  Dairy & Field Crops Team website.

The decision to receive the COVID-19 vaccine is a highly personal one, yet each individual’s decision has profound implications for public health. At the farm level, that makes farmer and farm worker vaccination an important risk management issue. The more people on your farm who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, the lower your risk of experiencing a COVID outbreak with consequences for employee health and farm operations.

As a manager, your words and actions have potential to influence employee attitudes about the vaccine. How can you communicate effectively about COVID-19 vaccination with your family members and employees? Here is a list of Do’s and Don’ts to help you have productive conversations that lead to more vaccinations.


1. Be the first person on your farm to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

Actions speak louder than words. Leading by example is an easy way to demonstrate that you take the threat of COVID seriously and you view the vaccine as an important tool to reduce COVID risk. It also gives you the ability to speak from your own experience about the process of getting vaccinated and any side effects that you experienced. If one person on the farm gets vaccinated, that may make others less hesitant about receiving the vaccine. According to a survey conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation’s COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor, individuals who were eager to get the vaccine were 79% more likely to know someone who was already vaccinated compared to individuals who said they would get the vaccine “only if required”.

2. Discuss COVID-19 vaccination early and often with your employees.

Encourage employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine and discuss how vaccination is good for the farm. Share your reasons for getting vaccinated and describe your experience with the vaccination process. Provide information about COVID-19 risks and the benefits of vaccination from trusted sources, including the CDC, the Cornell Farmworker Program, and the Institute for Food Safety at Cornell. Be sure to provide information in your employees’ native language. Share the English and Spanish recordings of a recent webinar featuring medical providers discussing “COVID-19 vaccines for farmworkers: Should I get it and what are the side effects?”

3. Share the fact that vaccines have a long and effective history of controlling and eradicating diseases in both humans and animals.

Measles, mumps, diptheria, whooping cough, and polio are just a few of the devastating human diseases that we control routinely with vaccinesSmallpox, an historic scourge of humanity that killed 3 in 10 of its victims and left others scarred and blinded, was eradicated worldwide by vaccines. Similarly, animal agriculture industries have long used vaccines to prevent disease in livestock. Farmers and farm employees should be very familiar with vaccines and understand the import role they play in controlling disease and promoting health.

4. Help employees navigate the logistics of getting vaccinated.

Make sure your workers know that, in New York State, vaccination is free and available to anyone age 16 and up who lives or works in the state. Share information with your employees about clinic locations, dates and times, and how to register. Make sure employees know they are eligible for up to four hours of paid leave to get a COVID-19 vaccination. Discuss transportation options and whether the farm is able to transport employees to a vaccination site.

Once your employees have registered for the vaccine, make sure they have all necessary documentation ready for their appointment, including photo identification. This can include documents from another country, such as passports, voter registration cards and consular IDs, or photo identification from another state. Everyone should bring proof that they live or work in New York State. Those that do not have a New York State ID can bring a paystub showing the farm address. Health insurance is not required for vaccination. However, people who have health insurance should bring their insurance policy information to their appointment.

5. Listen to employee concerns and consider whether you can do anything to alleviate them.

Listening without judgement to employee questions and concerns is one of the best ways to build confidence in the COVID-19 vaccine. Some employees may voice concerns stemming from a lack of information or misinformation about the vaccine. Others may worry about missing work after getting the vaccine due to potential side effects. In response, be prepared to share your own reasons for getting vaccinated, provide information about vaccine safety from reliable sources, and communicate your farm’s sick leave policy. Discuss staggering vaccination dates for workers to avoid the possibility of everyone experiencing side effects at the same time.

6. Continue sharing information about new opportunities to get vaccinated.

Farmworker vaccination efforts across New York State are gaining momentum. Now that eligibility is based on age, farmers and farm workers may access the vaccine through multiple channels, including sites run by New York State, county health departments, and pharmacies. According to the Governor’s April 13 announcement, the state is devoting additional resources to increase vaccine delivery to farmers and farm workers through convenient pop-up vaccination sites. As you learn about new vaccination opportunities, be sure to share them with your employees. If you have workers who are not ready to get vaccinated now, they may be interested in a few weeks or months.


1. Repeat doubts about the safety of COVID-19 vaccinations from unreliable sources.

The scientific community is strongly in support of the vaccines that are approved for use in the U.S. because they are safe and effective. This was demonstrated both through large scale trials while the vaccines were being developed and now by the hundreds of millions of people who have safely received them. Rumors and doubts expressed by leaders can make employees afraid of the vaccine. There are actual risks from vaccines, such as rare allergic reactions, but these risks are far outweighed by the risk of not getting vaccinated and the danger that unvaccinated individuals present to themselves and to everyone with whom they come into contact.

2. Disregard or judge employees when they ask questions or share their concerns.

These are truly uncertain times and the pandemic has provoked historic levels of fear in our society. Stress and anxiety can hinder good decision-making and leave people vulnerable to unfounded rumors and misinformation. Do not dismiss employees’ concerns with a quick judgement. Instead, listen and ask questions. A listening ear can help people unpack their concerns and hold them up for examination against the facts. You might then have an opportunity to follow up with reliable information from trusted resources after listening.

3. Fail to encourage your employees to get vaccinated.

It is not enough to rely on public messages to encourage your employees to get vaccinated. As a business manager, you are a trusted source of information and guidance. Your silence about COVID-19 vaccination might be read by employees as indifference or, worse, hostility toward vaccination. The safety of your employees and their families, the future of your business, and the health of our communities depends in part on your positive communications about vaccination.


Leadership matters. Your efforts to encourage vaccination for your employees and their families could have far-reaching effects in protecting health and life. Please do your part to encourage the people you lead to get the vaccine, get protected, and help snuff out COVID-19.