I believe that my co-op experience thus far has allowed me to see social structures and stigmas more clearly relative to a work environment. I have learned a great deal already about freedom and the costs and responsibilities that come along with it. I feel like I have a purpose at Young’s right now because when I make cheese or ice cream and I come home at the end of the day wet and dirty covered in ice cream or whey or salt or soap, I feel like I’ve accomplished something. Seeing people enjoy things that you make is a great feeling.
My position at Young’s creates space for me to think critically and creatively. I have to use critical math skills when figuring out culture, calcium chloride, rennet, and salt amounts when making cheese. To figure out amount of culture needed in a batch is dependent on how many pounds of milk there are, divided by 500, times the 12 unit MA culture for aging. After obtaining a culture (whether it be MA14, 16, or 19 – the one not used last), and dividing the number of grams in that bag by 125 DCU this number is then multiplied by the first number for how many grams to use. To clarify: Today I have 1304 pounds of milk, which divided by 500 is 2.608, times 12 is 31.296. I will use MA 16 because my coworker used MA 14 and 19 yesterday, the bag of MA 16 I grabbed has 36.3 grams of culture in it, divided by 125 is 0.2904, multiplied by the first number of 31.396 gives me 9.08 grams to weigh out for culture. The reason each culture bag is divided by 125 DCU is because each bag comes with a different amount of culture in it, depending on how active each one is it is standard to use this calculation process to be consistent. I have used creative thinking to help me with physical tasks such as packing the curd and salting. When packing the curd if I am having trouble forming it correctly (into two packs alongside the vat with a canal in the middle for whey to drain), then I use the wide paddles that are intended for helping stir with the knives, as straight walls so that the curd cannot get loose on me. When salting the curd I have learned to stand on a crate so that I can balance myself on the edge of the vat and reach to salt. I have reached these solutions by trial, error, and practice and will continue to do this more often as there is always room for improvement here.
I have to say the biggest thing I think I’ve learned this co-op is how much will power I really have. Anything I put my mind to I can figure out how to accomplish. I really take pride in my work. I have to conclude with the statement that this “experience” is actually educating me. I now know things about myself that I did not know before, such as the kind of people I like working with. I like people that have strong work ethics like I do. This co-op has made me proud of my own work ethic and taught me technical and life skills.
It has helped me discern that my academic major is probably not realistic to what I will actually see myself doing as a career. It has actually caused me to rethink the classes I want to take because I want to be able to work at Young’s making cheese throughout my time at Antioch. I also want to take more classes that will make me more aware of the agricultural and farming aspect of life. The global seminar class on food was probably one that best prepared me for working at Young’s because it exposed me to the importance of consuming products that are made close to home.
My experience at Young’s has meant a lot to me. I have learned how to budget my paychecks to make sure I pay the doctor, school, car and any other monthly bills as well as learn how to eat on a tight budget and figure things out on my own. I have learned to depend on myself only. At work I am 100% responsible for whatever I do, so if I forget something or don’t clean something right then it is no one else’s fault but my own, and I will be held accountable. Now that I think of it, accountability is one of the top things I would say I learned this co-op, and that is awesome. This past weekend was fun at work because I didn’t have most of the problems I typically do. I studied my checklist and made sure I was diligent in my work. I ended up having the best-looking packed cheese that I have done entirely by myself this past Monday. This may sound like a small little marker of success but you can check out the pictures at the end of this paper and see the drastic difference in curd packing I have done. This experience has opened me up to humility and the urge to keep practicing and improving. I am sure that any future co-ops and classes I will be involved in will only be better because of what I will take with me from Young’s. I am thankful for this opportunity and hope that other students get the same chance to experience this little world of cheese and ice cream making and maybe learn a thing or two from it like I did.