A new partnership to help veterans in the farming community took off Thursday in Swanville. The Memorandum of Agreement was signed at Ireland Hill Farms.
“It has its huge benefits. It’s in many ways given me my life back. It’s given me a way to ground myself and grow a family and do something that I feel like I can be proud of and contribute to the community,” said Jerry Ireland of Ireland Hill Farms.
He started Ireland Hill Farms just three years ago after spending ten years in the Army and the National Guard. With no experience in farming, Ireland reached out to the Farmer Veteran Coalition for a little guidance.
He said the independent skills he learned in the military fit into the development of a farm, which he is sharing at his workshop.
“There’s nobody there to tell you to get up in the morning and feed the animals, plow a field, or plant a crop. It’s really your own motivation,” said Ireland.
Ireland’s swift success story earned him a “Homegrown By Heroes” certification and some help from the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry (DACF). Now DACF will promote agricultural products grown or processed by military veterans in the state.
“We think that in a quiet way some folks will find this of value to them as they readjust to life that’s prosperous,” said Walt Whitcomb, the Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry Commissioner.
Whitcomb said they want veterans to know they are here to help, and point them in the direction of services for business management and crop growing advice.
“As a fellow farmer, they are long, hard days, or long, hard, cold days. There’s a reward in what you’re doing and the attachment from creating something in the land, and the water, and seeing a customers satisfied at the end,” said Whitcomb.
Adria Horn and her husband just bought a 91-acre farm in Maine. She said it’s an easy transition from military life outside to hard work on the farm, and that her family is looking forward to becoming new farmers.
“I am originally from New Hampshire but we chose to live here in Maine because we know it’s fertile ground–literally and figuratively–to raise a family,” said Horn.
Ireland said the process helped him heal and becoming a farmer can be a successful next chapter for any veteran.