Phil McLean has retired from teaching agriculture for Japanese Agriculture Training Program (JATP) at Big Bend Community College after 43 years.
The Moses Lake-area farmer taught American agriculture and farm safety to “two or three generations” of JATP trainees, said BBCC’s JATP Director Sandy Cheek.
“He takes great interest in these young people, and cares a lot about sharing his knowledge about farming practices in the United States,” she said.
An animated story teller, McLean remains passionate about the mission of the program. It was difficult for him to step back, but he said it is time.
“Trainees would ask if I was the same Mr. McLean who taught agriculture to their father, and I would say ‘Yes, I am the same Mr. McLean’.”
One of his former students is Takumi Yoshinaga, a long-time U.S. representative of the Japan Agriculture Exchange Council representative in Seattle.
“I remember hearing Mr. McLean’s voice in my dreams, so that means I was learning what he was teaching us,” said Yoshinaga.
Most trainees have no experience or background in irrigated agriculture taught by McLean because Japan’s agriculture revolves around monsoon seasons. One of his most important responsibilities was teaching American farm safety before trainees went to host farms that use heavy equipment rarely seen in Japan.
McLean and his wife Rayma, who have developed lifelong friendships with trainees, still entertain former trainees at their home and visit them in Japan.
McLean was honored at the 51st welcoming ceremony for new JATP trainees arriving at Big Bend on March 28.