With the chance to go and work on one of the largest farms in Ohio, Jack Hesketh, a former student at Myerscough College, took the opportunity with both hands to bring vital skills back home to his family farm. Emily Ashworth reports.
Arriving back on home soil in late November, Jack Hesketh had spent the last seven months in Ohio, working on one of the largest farms known to the midwestern US state.
Set up through The Ohio Programme, an internship established by the Ohio State University, the 23-year-old has since come home with a brand new enthusiasm for his 121-hectare (300-acre) family farm in Hutton, Lancashire. The trip has helped bring a fresh perspective on how Jack and his father, Jonathan, can move their sheep and arable business forward.
The experience is something Jack revelled in, especially after witnessing what kind of work it takes to run a 3,601-hectare (8,900-acre) American farm.
Having studied lamb-based mechanism at Myerscough College, the prospect of an internship appealed to Jack, with the aim of the programme being to provide students and recent graduates with the opportunity to travel to the USA to gain experience in agriculture.
The scheme was started in 1979 by Ohio State University graduate Michael Chrisman, after he found himself unable to secure any experience overseas.
Since that point on, he had the support of the university to start the programme, which has, up to the present day, helped thousands of young people gain life-changing educational experiences.
After filling out the application form and sending his CV and personal statement off, Jack heard back from two farms within a week and was persuaded to head off to Groco Family Farms, Jamestown.
Jack says: “Some people did not make it through the interview. It normally takes months to hear back and I felt quite proud of that.”
Helping to run the farm alongside his dad, Jack had discussed it with both his parents before heading out to Ohio, determined to learn whatever he could.
He says: “Mum said I may as well go, but my dad was not too happy, as I would be leaving him with everything to do.
“He still said to go and do it though and I just wanted to experience it all.”
The internship began on April 12 and, as Jack landed, wrapped up in jumpers having come straight from a cold British winter, he was in awe of his new surroundings.
He says: “It was so hot. Then you walk into the driveway and it was a 600-acre plot.
“There was a big meeting as soon as I arrived, and I got in with all the bosses, who were very friendly and welcoming.
“I was lucky to work for the biggest farm in Jamestown and everybody knew the farmers.”
Growing corn and soya beans, Jack worked alongside other international interns on-farm, as well as long-established workers of Groco.
But the size, scale and conditions of the farm presented Jack with different, but welcomed, challenges.
He says: “We had to work the fields twice because the ground was so hard. Then one of my first jobs was to repair a seed drill, which I knew how to do, but the way the wheels are set up is completely different over there.
“My favourite things were to drive a 450 quadtrac and, as they call it, ‘bush-hogging’, which is mowing or pasture-topping grass.
“I also got to drive the little 1456 tractor all summer in the baking heat in a cabless tractor.
Everyone thought it was piece of rubbish, but there was no getting me off it.
“If you were in a field, you couldn’t see anybody else. I enjoyed every minute of it.”
Back home, at Ribble Kirn Farm, improved farm management was something Jack was keen to feed back into the business, which runs 300 Mules, Cheviots, Texel and Beltex sheep, and grows a mix of barley and wheat.
Jack says: “We are bit behind here. We don’t use weigh-scaling or know what every field is outputting or what you are putting in, so it is a guessing game.
“You can get apps on your phone or computer that has all your data. The way they have their farm set up with the weight, I could do by the trailer-load, so I am trying to get the system over here, but on a more basic level.”
Coming home and wanting to implement things straight away was never going to be an easy task, especially when working in a family partnership.
Jack says: “I wanted to get started straight away, but Dad wasn’t too keen. I wanted to put buildings up and try making new machinery, but everything costs money.
“We have had a talk together and we are going to go slow and steady. It was such a big farm in Ohio, it can expand on its own land.”
Jack cannot now return as an intern, but has been privileged to hear that Groco have asked if he will go back, which is testament to Jack’s hardworking and positive farming outlook.
He says: “There are not enough people in the agricultural industry over there and they cannot get the workers, which is why they use interns.
“If you have the right attitude and work hard, you’ll get paid right, plus you learn something, and they get the work done.”
For now, Jack is happy to work on building his flock, but he is not opposed to the idea of going back to Ohio, knowing that whatever he can eventually bring home will only benefit his family business on the whole.
He says: “I’ve come back here and said to Dad I might be going again, but I want to do it while I’m young.
“I’ll always have the farm to come back to and for the farm to want me back, I just thought ‘wow’.
“Dad is proud though. It has opened the world up. There are other places to work, even if it is just for a few weeks. It doesn’t just revolve around your farm.”