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Ag conference to aid veterans

BOALSBURG — The first ever Pennsylvania Veteran Farming Conference will be held this month at the Pennsylvania Military Museum in Boalsburg.

The day-long conference — set for

Feb. 28 and funded by the USDA Office of Partnerships and Public Engagements 2501 Grant Program — will feature presentations on accessing technical and financial assistance from USDA agencies including the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Farm Services Agency and Rural Development.

Staff from county and state level USDA offices will be on hand to offer one-on-one consultation during the conference.

The event is educational in nature, said Mimi Thomas-Brooker, director of the Pennsylvania Veteran Farming Project.

“The goal of the event is to connect especially beginning veteran farmers with the resources they need for successful and economically viable farming,” she said.

“They need the tools to be successful. We can help them have a strong healthy farm that will be financially rewarding,” Thomas-Brooker added.

The goal of the program is to connect veterans who are in farming or running an ag business to the resources available and to each other, she said.

Pennsylvania has never had an extensive network of veteran farmers, although according to the latest Census of Agriculture, Pennsylvania has 7,549 farmers with military service on 7,222 farms.

“It is apparent there are a plethora of agriculture resources available for our veterans coming back to Pennsylvania. Some of them have no background and don’t know where to start. We saw a need to connect veterans with the resources in Pennsylvania,” Thomas-Brooker said.

Pennsylvania Farm Bureau is excited about the conference.

“The conference should provide a great opportunity for new and existing veteran farmers to learn about a variety of resources and information to help them get started or to help them prosper in the future,” said PFB Chief Administrative Officer Sam Kieffer, a veteran himself. “From the early days of the American Revolution to modern times, farmers and farm kids have been trained to defend our country. This conference is a chance to help our brothers and sisters in arms train to farm for a living, so they can help feed and clothe our nation.”

The expected 35-40 attendees will also hear from experts on issues of importance to agricultural owner/operators.

Among the presenters will be Andrew Trexler of the Bedford County Business Development Council, who will team with Air Force veteran Rhonda Smith to present a marketing case study tracing the growth of Blue Knob’s custom blended tea company The Skirted Soldier, owned by Smith.

“The conference is a great way for veterans and military families to connect and discuss business opportunities or to learn how to improve their existing operation,” Smith said. “The benefit to anyone attending is how to improve existing operations, learn new tricks, meet and connect with fellow veterans and discuss future opportunities and partnerships.”

Smith said she is honored to be part of the event.

“I enjoy being an advisory board member for the Pennsylvania Veteran Farmer Project. The project offers many resources and connections and has really helped me launch/grow my business, which benefits female veterans. Mimi is a fabulous coordinator and keeps us informed on the latest happenings, trainings, grant opportunities and information,” Smith said.

Thomas-Brooker said veterans should consider getting into farming.

“It is an area of great need in America and Pennsylvania. Our farming community is getting older; there is a great opportunity to get into agriculture,” she said. “For veterans who want to get involved, this is an opportunity to provide food for the community. What better way to get involved?”

The registration fee is $20. The register, visit https://www.troopstotractors.org/

Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 946-7467.

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