Agriculture show aims to help veterans on farm

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Kennebec Journal 2014 file photo

BY JESSICA LOWELL

The number of military veterans who are farmers in Maine may be relatively small, but with some care and cultivation, the Maine chapter of the Farmer Veteran Coalition is hoping the flock can grow.

At the 75th annual Maine Agricultural Trades Show, which begins Tuesday at the Augusta Civic Center, the newly minted chapter will offer up some time Thursday for networking for veteran farmers; host a panel discussion to introduce veteran farmers to non-veteran farmers, marketers, agricultural service providers and other industry professionals; and hold a chapter meeting, which is open to the public.

“The idea is to put a personal face on the organization,” said Jerry Ireland, president of the Maine chapter of the Farmer Veteran Coalition.

For Ireland, the expo is an opportunity to expand the reach of a program that’s intended to attract veterans to agriculture and to raise the profile of the Homegrown By Heroes branding program.

Over the next decade, an estimated 100,000 farmers will retire, leaving a potential hole in the food chain. At the same time, the U.S. Department of Defense is expected to retire twice as many veterans, some of whom may be looking for something productive to do. Ireland is hoping that some of them may consider agriculture, as he did. As a post 9/11-era veteran, he turned to farming after leaving the service.

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