Philip Hollingshead ’19, the agriculture and natural resources extension educator at Central State University, knows the immense value of both hard work and friendship. What makes his knowledge of the two traits different, however, is that he works toward instilling them in others so that they can master tasks, thus seeing their worth as human beings.
Having grown up on a small family farm in Gallia County, Ohio, and, subsequently, having worked since a very young age with quarter horses and show pigs, Hollingshead knew from childhood in what direction his life would move. “I had a hay business with my grandpa and helped some close friends that lived down the road on their beef cattle farm. I participated in 4-H. It was pretty clear,” he said. He was definitely interested in agriculture, but, even when he arrived at high school, he said, there weren’t a whole lot of resources available to him to learn more about pursuing a career in it; after all, his graduating class from Ohio Valley Christian School was only ten kids. He started working for a local veterinarian’s office to learn a little more about animals and began to research colleges.
“Most people were pushing to go to bigger schools,” Hollingshead said. “But I already knew how impersonal those colleges could be from talking to friends. I just didn’t like the idea of being ‘pushed through’ a four-year college.” He initially discovered UF through visiting his older sister at Bowling Green State University. When the family would visit her, Hollingshead said, they would see the University of Findlay signs alongside the highway. He had a friend who was, at the time, attending UF to be a physical therapist, and she told him that she found out quickly how “really well-known and respected” the Animal Science Program is. Knowing that, along with the fact that it was a smaller university, Hollingshead said, was enough to spur him to visit the University as a sophomore in high school. “I knew right then,” he said. “Number one choice.”
Hollingshead pursued and earned a Bachelor of Science in Animal Science/Industry Option from UF, because, he said, he wanted to learn about the business side of agriculture along with the farming side. This focus has reaped numerous rewards for him as an alumnus, firstly in his current role at CSU, where he works toward educating new farmers to assist them in getting their farm off the ground. “We work with their farm plans,” he said, “getting things lined up to help them be as successful as possible. I help both older and younger farmers and I, myself, learn something new just about every day.” He went on to explain that UF prepared him with enough business knowledge to do things like recently start a custom metal fabricating business with his father as well. “It doesn’t have anything to do with agriculture, but I’m definitely using the skills I learned in those business classes at UF with it,” he added.
As part of his career with CSU, Hollingshead also focuses a lot of his energy on helping veterans with learning about the agriculture industry and other areas that can offer them hope for their future. He spoke of a sheep shearing demonstration that he assisted with for the HOOVES program in Swanton, Ohio, a program for veterans, created by a veteran, which, according to its website, helps them “transform post traumatic stress into post traumatic growth,” by spending time on their working farm. “It was an educational presentation about shearing sheep and how to process the wool and such, and, luckily from my experience at UF working at the animal science farm shearing out there quite a bit, I had enough knowledge,” Hollingshead said. He calls the work he does with vets “more of a rehabilitation” for them. All, he said, have spent their military careers working toward a specific goal, and many, when they return as civilians, find no specific goal to work with. Hollingshead’s additional work with Hives for Heroes, a similar program to HOOVES, educates veterans, but through its focus on the rewards of keeping bee hives. A beekeeper himself, he said that, based on the success he’s seen, he and the other southeast Ohio region educator are looking to start a program in that area. “These tasks mitigate that struggle for meaning,” Hollingshead continued. “It’s good insight for me to see it from that angle, and that’s where that experience helped my perspective.”
Hollingshead said that his time at UF absolutely helped pave the way to success in forming relationships like those with farmers and vets. Through his experiences with professors and friends at UF, he realized fully what it meant to care for others. “It didn’t matter if I took an art class my freshman year,” he explained. “That professor would see me on Cory Street Mall my senior year, then, and still remember me and what I was doing and ask me genuine questions. They cared. That has really resonated with me in my work.”