On Nov. 10, Connecticut Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz, Department of Ag Commissioner Bryan P. Hurlburt, CT Farmer Veteran member and owner of Mountain View Farm Lorren Pogson, USDA Rural Development Southern New England State Director Scott Soares, Farmer Veteran Coalition (FVC) of CT President Jared McCool and Executive Director of CT Resource Conservation & Development (CT RC&D) Jeanne Davies gathered to officially announce the formation of the Farmer Veteran Coalition of Connecticut and release the Homegrown by Heroes CT Grown brand logo.
“One of my office’s biggest priorities is making sure our state’s veterans feel the recognition and honor they deserve,” said Bysiewicz. “This new Connecticut chapter will help bring like-minded veterans, who have been through similar experiences, together for a greater purpose. We are always proud of our Connecticut Grown products, but there is something extra special when you know the product is homegrown by a veteran who made the sacrifice of serving to protect our freedoms. I encourage everyone to be on the lookout for products with the Homegrown by Heroes logo. Buying these products will go a long way to support our state and support our state’s veterans.”
The Homegrown by Heroes label (HBH) is the official farmer veteran branding program of America and is administered nationally by the FVC. It informs consumers that ag products were produced by U.S. military veterans and differentiates their farm products in the marketplace.
“Through an agreement between the Farmer Veteran Coalition and the Connecticut Department of Agriculture, we are able to conduct a joint marketing effort promoting to consumers that the product they are buying is both produced by a Veteran Farmer and a CT Grown product,” said Hurlburt. “By merging these branding tools and leveraging the cumulative power that they both bring we are able to better support these operations for long-term success.”
The FVC is a national nonprofit non-governmental organization that mobilizes veterans to feed America and transition from military service to a career in agriculture. Started in 2007, chapters have been created in various states since then to provide veterans or active-duty military service members with access to their programs including the FVC Farming Fellowship, HBH and attendance at workshops, retreats and webinars.
“The Farmer Veteran Coalition was integral to the growth of my farm, True North Homestead,” shared Nicole DeFelice, communications officer for the CT chapter. “Through the award of the Farmer Veteran Fellowship Fund we were able to build the sugar shack, which is now the home base for our maple syrup operation. This outbuilding expanded our production capacity immensely and wouldn’t have been possible without FVC. Playing a role in helping to establish a local FVC chapter here in Connecticut has been an incredible opportunity for me to pay that generosity forward to other farmer veterans. We are providing valuable programs and resources to serve our community in creating a more vibrant and sustainable Connecticut.”
According to USDA’s 2017 Census of Ag, there are nearly 900 farmers in CT with military experience. Of those, nearly half report agriculture as being their primary occupation.
The formation of this CT chapter was spearheaded by a conversation between Jared McCool, a Marine Corps veteran and owner/operator of Steadfast Farms in Bethlehem, and Amanda Fargo-Johnson, agricultural programs director at CT RC&D. The two-year process in the development was achieved through the hard work by a dedicated group of veteran farmers.
“It all started with a conversation with a farmer, as many of the things we do at CT RC&D begin,” said Fargo-Johnson. “As a partnership-driven organization seeking to bridge gaps where assistance is needed most, it was a natural extension of our FarmUp program to create Veteran FarmUp, with the goal of providing one-on-one assistance to veteran farmers as well as facilitating the formation of a chapter of Farmer Veteran Coalition in the state. Thankfully, with support from USDA Rural Development we’ve been able to do just that. I’m excited for the next phase of this journey, to see all the great things this chapter will accomplish!”
“These extraordinary veterans exemplify what it means to serve. They never brag, they are unbelievably humble and they care about strangers they pass in the grocery store as much as their neighbors, family and friends,” said Aaron McCool, FVC of CT board member. “Duty, honor and the desire to serve their communities and make the world a safer better place drives these dedicated Americans to continue to serve their country long past their military enlistment contract. I’m honored and humbled to work with them, mobilizing veteran farmers to cultivate agricultural solutions for a vibrant and sustainable Connecticut. God Bless America and the veterans who protect her.”
Article courtesy of Connecticut Department of Agriculture