Hersch, Jay - Oral History Interview
Jay Hersch ’68 was at the University of Wisconsin from 1960 to 1964. After graduating from Wisconsin, he applied to Law School at North Western and graduated school in Agronomy at the University of Wisconsin, though he really did not want to go back to school. Instead, he wanted to join the Peace Corps (at the time, heavily promoted by Kennedy and Humphrey), so he went to Colombia (was in Cooperative Development). He finished his time there in June of 1966 and was interested in Economic Development and applied to several graduate schools – Columbia, Princeton, SAIS and Tufts – and he chose to come to Washington (SAIS). There, he focused on Development. He recalls some of his favorite professors and that he met his wife at SAIS. Spanish was his language and he had to learn non-colloquial Spanish and remembers having friends from Mexico and other Latin American countries. When he was looking for jobs in his second year, he interviewed with Exxon in New York and with US AID. He ended up working for the Department of Health Education and Welfare as an intern. He recalls the period of 1968 to 1969 being very exciting times (when Nixon came into power). As an intern, he received a tremendous amount of responsibility because no one was threatened by his status. In Cleveland, he worked with Huff Development Corporation and worked on pairing them up with other major corporations. He also got involved with the Ford Foundation and work they did on building brownstone apartments in poor neighborhoods. In addition, he did work on the rural agrarian reform program in Lee County, Georgia. He then went on to work for the Federal Government for the next 17 years. At the beginning, it was exciting and after a while, he reported that it became frustrating. In 1987 or 1988, he decided to branch off and start his own business. He and his wife, he started looking for property in rural Virginia (Highland County) and began started raising a breed of cattle called Beefalo. This triggered his getting involved in the production of healthier, all-natural, leaner meats (later organic). He got involved in market outreach of this leaner meat through Safeway grocery stores and to date, he still owns the corporation, which has evolved to fresh beef and refrigerated sausage. He says that if there is one lesson he would impart to current SAIS students is to embrace serendipity when it happens and to follow leads when they come up. Also, be sure to follow your dreams.