“We needed to do something in New Hampshire,” Steve Turaj says, explaining the simple start to the New Hampshire Farm Bureau’s Veterans in Agriculture Committee.
Turaj, a food and agriculture field specialist based in Coös County with UNH Cooperative Extension, is part of this committee working to provide access to agriculture for veterans in New Hampshire. The committee came to being after Glen Putnam, president of the Grafton County Farm Bureau Federation, saw a presentation by the Farmer Veteran Coalition at a convention in Tennessee.
“They talked about everything they were doing,” Putnam, a navy reservist (pictured right), says. “I thought that would be a good thing to have in New Hampshire.” Others agreed.
A group of folks with interests in agriculture and the veterans’ community gathered at the NH Farm Bureau Federation’s annual meeting in 2016 to discuss the formation of a group dedicated to advancing veterans in agriculture. What developed was this committee set to have its second event on Saturday, August 12 in Langdon, NH.
Hosted at Abdali Farm by veteran Richard Briggs, this next event demonstrates the committee’s idea to have folks hold networking and informational gatherings throughout the state.
“The idea is we’ll do a regular meeting once a year over in the Grafton County region,” Turaj says. “And we want to encourage satellite meetings that people will pull together themselves.”
Accomplishing in-person, on-location events is part of an approach to provide a network of resources for veterans interested in all aspects of agriculture. To augment those meetings the NH Farm Bureau Federation is working to create an online resource that will be available to their members says Diane Clary, executive director of the federation.
The connection between a former life in the military and agriculture is not too far apart, and skills learned while deployed overseas can be just as useful on United States farm soil. “If this guy can take apart a tank and put it back together, he should be able to fix a tractor,” Turaj says.
The most important part of the committee’s work is the networking. “We’re going to help the guys coming in, like mentors,” Putnam says. These connections are what will drive success for veterans in agriculture. And Turaj knows that veterans are just the group to make a project work. “Ex-military – they are going to run with it, they just need a little bit of backup.”
That backup is provided by the committee, other organizations like UNH Cooperative Extension and veterans already in agriculture seeking to help others.