Countryfile comes to Bostock!

Young Cheshire farmer, Jason Smith, attracted the attention of BBC’s Countryfile programme recently when they paid him a visit to film at the family farm in Bostock Green. Jason is the third generation of Smiths to raise and manage the Pedigree Holstein Bostock Herd.

His Grandfather, Les Smith, started the Herd as a tenant farmer back in 1969 with just 80 cattle raised on the 140-acre Brook House Farm, which is now owned by the Tatton Estate. Jason’s father, Adrian, took over management in 1982, and is proud to have expanded the farm a further 260 acres and grown the herd to 320 Pedigree Holsteins, along with an Angus bull.

Matt Baker visited Brook House Farm to interview Jason and film some of his and the team’s daily working activities on the farm for a Countryfile programme about the future of young UK farmers, and apprenticeship schemes.

Jason was chosen by BBC Countryfile from several Level 3 agricultural apprentices who are studying at Reaseheath College in Cheshire. “I enjoyed my time at Reaseheath,” says Jason. “It’s good to get a recognised qualification, but great to share stories with others in the farming industry. When I started the apprenticeship I was working on a much larger dairy farm, where I spent 18 months before joining the team here on Brook Farm.”

In 2014, aged 20, Jason was also one of the youngest farmers to be chosen to join the inaugural ‘Future 15’, Tesco’s ‘Future Farmer Foundation’. Now 21 and nearing the end of the programme, he says the experience has given him so many opportunities to broaden his knowledge, not only in the world of farming and agriculture, but also in business management.

“People thought I was chosen because our farm supplies milk to Tesco, but this played no part in the selection for the Future 15 programme”, says Jason. “I spotted a video advertising the programme online, decided it was just what I needed and applied. There were initially over 200 applicants; these were reduced to 50, and after a group session in Birmingham, the final 15 were selected. I couldn’t believe my luck to have been chosen.

“The 12-month scheme is fully funded by Tesco”, continued Jason. “I enjoy the time away from the farm and as well as swapping experiences with the other 14 on the programme, you get to meet some very well educated, forward-thinking people, all willing to share their expertise and knowledge, and mentor the students across a whole spectrum of farming specialisms.

“The consultants and senior managers running the workshops stayed at the same hotels overnight and it was such an amazing opportunity to chat to them informally; it’s highly motivating as they are all passionate about what they do in the industry.

“I’ve attended intensive training days learning about accounts, business planning and supply chains, along with leadership forums, and experienced confidence building techniques through team events.

“There are organised trips, such as a visit to Toyota’s Engine Plant to learn how the principles of Lean Manufacturing, developed by Toyota, can be applied to farming; to Adams, Europe’s largest cheese packing site, where the group was introduced to the principles of Category Management, and Noble Foods, learning about the egg supply chain, marketing and production. The trips list is endless.

“The great thing is I will be able to continue attending the events even after I finish the programme, which will help keep me up-to-date as the industry progresses.”

Tesco also operates an online networking facility where all those who supply goods to their retail outlets come together to exchange news and opinions.

“As a Future 15 we are able to access to Tesco’s SupplierNetwork, which is an online community which includes suppliers and producers from around the world. I think it’s great when all the farming brands come together.” Jason enthused.

Jason will also continue in his father’s footsteps by entering himself into a wide variety of competitions. “Dad is renowned in the industry for his success at so many competitions over the years; the whole family were especially proud of him when he won Tesco Farmer Of The Year in 2012, along with Promar International Milk Minder Manager of the year.”

And Jason has already taken up the mantle, recently winning his first accolade by achieving second place in the 2014 Cheshire Farms Competition. “I will enter competitions”, he explains, “but like my father, it is not so much for the award itself, but to set my own standards.”

Jason’s youth belies his inward maturity as he enthuses about the future of Brook House Farm. “Some changes I would introduce would be easy, such as introducing a comfortable “Brew Room” with the Internet, where the team are able to congregate and catch up. Others would take time, like the introduction of new technology to the farm, and building an online database for herd management and planning; these would be of tremendous benefit to the efficient running of the farm.

“Staff welfare would be high on my priority list; I believe as a leader you have to earn the respect of your team and it is essential to work together for safety and management planning purposes.

“It’s been a wonderful opportunity; I’ve received so much encouragement and it has given me the confidence to plan, evaluate and successfully progress my own business ideas to ensure the Bostock Herd continues to be successful long into the future.”

Chris Manley, Agricultural Manager at Tesco “Not only are we proud that Jason and his family are Tesco Sustainable Dairy Group (TSDG) members. We are very pleased to see how Jason is grasping every opportunity to develop his skills and confidence to take greater responsibility within the family business and is now able to focus on delivering a long term sustainable future for their farm. The Future Farmer Foundation was set up to help budding young farmers with the drive and enthusiasm to pave a career in Agriculture and Jason is a fine example of the many talented individuals we have on our programme.”

Adrian is delighted that son Jason will carry on the family tradition of dairy farming in Bostock Green. “He is already challenging me, and I don’t want to stifle his enthusiasm, I want him to learn from his mistakes, just like I did with my father.” He says.

“I’m saddened that Tesco is currently receiving bad press; the organisation has always been very fair to us. It is all about margins and because of their continued support, not just financially, but in an advisory capacity as well, we have been able to invest in our dairy farm to secure Jason’s future.”

Henry Brooks of the Tatton Estate (also a third generation family business) and Deputy President of the Cheshire Agricultural Society said: “We are delighted to see such recognition for the great work Jason and Adrian Smith and all at Bostock are doing, as well as for Tesco’s invaluable support of the industry and especially developing career paths for the next generation. Rural business remains a huge employer with farming and conservation at its heart, and partnerships, technology and knowledge transfer provide opportunities for entrepreneurs like Adrian and Jason to make an even greater contribution in the 21st Century. ”

This article featured in Connect Magazine in April 2015.