Oct. 5, 2011

The field where former Buckeye Ben Hartsock learned his work ethic didn’t come with a line of scrimmage or a goal post. There was no press-box or team bench. Instead, there were tractors and dairy cows.

Growing up in Chillicothe, Ohio, Hartsock, who signed with the Carolina Panthers as a free agent in July, spent his childhood working on the family farm.

“At a very young age I was running equipment, pushing a broom or picking up rocks in the field,” said Hartsock. “I think that it really paid off for me when I got to the college level whether it be in athletics or academics. I think growing up on the farm and having that responsibility at a young age gives you the confidence that whenever you get into new circumstances that you can handle it because you were given those responsibilities at such a young age.”

A three year starter for the Buckeyes at tight end, Hartsock connected for 57 catches and five touchdowns in his tenure with Ohio State. But despite his success on the gridiron, Hartsock always make a point to share his background and values with his teammates.

“We had the team come down to the farm for a cookout and it was really a way to have a team building experience,” said Hartsock. “We had plenty of things to do from running equipment to milking cows. Even now, eight years into the league, I have some of my former teammates come up to me and the first thing they bring up is how much fun they had going down to the farm all those years.

It’s another one of those things that not many of my teammates were able to experience growing up in an urban environment and I think guys were grateful for that opportunity to see things.”

Hartsock knows what the farm meant to him. And he knows a lot of farmers feel the same way. Pairing once again with Ohio State athletics, Hartsock and the Buckeye Club are pleased to debut the “Grow Forward” program – an initiative aimed at giving farmers the opportunity to support the Ohio State student-athlete scholarship fund.

Combining efforts with the Ohio AgriBusiness Association (OABA), The Ohio Soybean Association, The Ohio Corn and Wheat Growers Association and the Ohio Farmers Union, “Grow Forward” allows farmers to easily donate a percentage of their Harvest to the Buckeye Club.

“I think it’s a wonderful way to reach out to rural residents of the state who have had positive experiences with Ohio State to give back,” said Hartsock. “I know there are a lot of farming families who had that positive experience that I had at Ohio State. The opportunities that Ohio State provided for me in athletics and in the classroom mean a great deal to me.”

Here’s how Grow Forward works:

  • A farmer or worker pulls a truck into grain elevator.
  • The elevator manager asks what portion of the load the farmer would like to donate to the Buckeye Club.
  • The elevator processes the sale and communicates the scale ticket to the new donor. They then communicate receipt information to both the Buckeye Club and the new donor.
  • At the end of the month, the elevator will send Ohio State Athletics a check for the amount donated at the elevator with a report including each of the participant’s names, bushels, donated amount, and their contact information.
  • The Buckeye Club recognizes the farmer’s charitable contribution and issues the farmer a season ticket application for the 2012 football season.
  • Depending on the levels of bushels donated, the farmer may be eligible for benefits such as access to premium parking passes, walk-on golf course privileges and other exclusive athletic benefits.

For more information on the “Grow Forward” program and Buckeye Club, call Mitch Straub at 614-247-1859 or visit