When I was in high school, I worked a couple of summers as a pot washer in a large cafeteria. It was an OK job, but there were some negatives. I had to deal with garbage cans filled to the brim with liquid waste, getting them onto a cart, down an elevator, onto a loading dock, off the cart, and then tilted in such a way that the waste would pour slowly into a dumpster. And, it was often uncertain which pans the cooks placed next to the sink were at room temperature and which ones were scalding hot.

But I also learned that any job is what you make of it. During busy times, there would be two pot-washers on duty, and I remember how we would work at break-neck speed for a half hour, get all caught up, take a Coke break for a half hour, then come back and work at break-neck speed again to account for the load that had piled up in our absence, then take another break. We made it into a game. 

Dirty jobs usually involve good, honest work.

So, when The Fiscal Times came out with a recent article listing dairy farm hand as one of the 10 dirty jobs no one wants, it didn’t come across necessarily as an insult, but rather an acknowledgement of the hard work involved. 

Some of our readers admitted as such.

“I’ve been on many farms and in many milking parlors,” a business-management consultant from Minnesota said in the reader-comment section. “The jobs at many of those fit the description in (The Fiscal Times) article; however, the jobs at other farms do not fit the awful descriptions in the article. On these farms, the owners and managers have worked very hard to create a physical and cultural situation that creates great job satisfaction and attracts workers with the skills to succeed in these positions.”

A reader from New York state said he had just visited a dairy that had new, expensive machinery but appeared very disorganized and haphazard. Buildings needed paint. “This place had millions of dollars invested in livestock, machinery, buildings ... and, who would actually WANT to work there? I wouldn't. Does that farm employ proud, motivated people? No way…”

That reader finally concluded that it all boils down to management.

This week, I visited a couple of dairies in Florida where special efforts are made to motivate and reward workers.

I have always thought that North Florida Holsteins in Bell, Fla., would be a great place to work. Maybe it is the attractive physical appearance of the dairy or the international flavor of the workforce, with numerous full-time staff and students from foreign countries -- Asia, Europe, Oceania, and Latin America included. In the milking parlor, workers stand on a cushiony rubber mat. They are eligible for financial incentives. A milker works with two to three other people all of the time, which creates a team atmosphere and indulges people’s social nature. And, some people like the certainty and consistency that goes with a job in a milking parlor. 

Another dairy makes a special point of recognizing workers’ birthdays and anniversaries.

What I learned many years ago in my “dirty job” was that I instinctively looked for positives and only needed slight encouragement to find them.