Read More Agriculturally focused veterans and more than 20 employers from the public and private sector came together April 19 at the Farmer Veteran Coalition Veteran Career Fair held aboard California State University, Fresno, to introduce veterans to career opportunities throughout California’s billion agricultural industry.
United States Department of Agriculture, Veterans Affairs, Agr Ability and Food Commons Fresno, were among the employers who met with veterans to educate them on career paths within their organization as well as how their services can assist those who are seeking self-employment by starting their own farming operation.
Seven years ago, when Hermonot first returned to manage the cattle on the farm that her great-grandparents had founded, milk prices were at an all-time low. The number of milking cows in Connecticut has been stable for some years, but the number of dairies continues to shrink as the industry consolidates. Tufts has long recognized the struggles that dairy farmers face, both in New England and nationwide.
Across the country, dairy farms were spending more to produce their milk than they were being paid for it. In 1980, the university established its ambulatory service to help address a shortage of food-animal veterinarians by creating a practice based in Woodstock that would travel up to two hours away for farm visits.
White was aware that the neighboring farm was shutting down because he’d been the regular vet there for 19 years. Things could occasionally get testy—especially with the stakes for farmers getting so high over the years. Department of Agriculture even started promoting a national suicide hotline to dairy farmers.
When he asked Hermonot what she was going to do with the property she had rented on the farm, she said she planned to house her weaned calves in two buildings there. Dairy farming, never an easy life, had become more challenging than ever. Fairholm managed to weather that storm, but many other farms did not. Those that remain must innovate and grow, or, like Hermonot’s neighbor, simply shut down.
He doubts he will get a card on 14 February (women claim farming is too insecure and back off, he says), but at least he is involved with his community and not without companionship. The Samaritans say that male farmers, along with medics and vets, are twice as likely to commit suicide as other professionals.
A leaflet he remembered seeing in his local veterinary surgery lead him to the Samaritans Rural Outreach programme, a network of helplines which combines practical support with confidential emotional advice.
The idea was to help farmers and also provide the next generation of vets with hands-on experience caring for livestock.
The staff has since quadrupled, and today nine large-animal veterinarians, accompanied by fourth-year Cummings students, make about 4,000 calls each year to farms all over Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
“We met a lot of veterans at our Career Fair–some who grew up around farms and others who were brand new to it–that will be great assets to our agricultural industry,” said FVC Executive Director Michael O’Gorman.
Bathsheba Everdene caused terminal havoc when she sent a Valentine's card bearing the message "Marry Me" to the lonely farmer next door, not realising the depths of his misery.