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Program teaches vets and the disabled how to become farmers

Published: Nov. 25, 2020 at 9:27 PM EST
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ORONO, Maine (WAGM) -

An agricultural program is looking to give the disabled an opportunity to be successful farmers. Kathy McCarty has more, in this week’s County Ag Report.

A collaborative effort between the University of Maine’s Cooperative Extension and the Maine Agribility program is looking to teach disabled individuals the skills necessary to become farmers.

“Our mission is to work with farmers, loggers, and fishermen, who have a chronic illness or disability, to help them continue to work successfully and safely in production agriculture. And part of our outreach audience are veterans,” says Leilani Carlson, University of Maine Cooperative Extension, Maine Agribility Project Coordinator.

Having served 27 years in the Marine Corps, Anne Devin says she understands her clients - veterans with traumatic brain injuries, PTSD, depression, and other disabilities.

“Your typical apprentice type opportunities were not really appropriate for them. You know, they couldn’t just pick up and leave their families and go live on a farm in a shack with an outhouse - not that all apprentice opportunities are like that, but - and then there was also this challenge around the traumatic brain injury really highlighted challenges with being able to set visions appropriately and really look out to the future or business plan development. I mean, that’s just not something She says what veterans hone are skills like resilience, creativity, and perseverance. With that in mind, a symposium was held in 2019 to aid participants in business development and creative technology. The following year they came up with Boots 2 Bushels, a mostly online program.

Devin says, “For 2020, we developed a nine-month, comprehensive, hands-on program that started out with 10 classes of instruction - everything from soil health, through marketing and business development and record keeping, all the way to harvest and storage.”

Boots 2 Bushels will continue in 2021, with instructors from the Cooperative Extension, the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, as well as three local farmers.

“We could certainly support people from The County taking part in the online classes. You know, there’s 10 of ‘em that are gonna be going from January through April. And those are going to be fantastic classes, just even if you want to get a little bit better knowledge and, you know, get more skills to what you already have in place,” says Devin.

Devin says additional hands-on learning will take place in Hinckley, for those able to attend. For more information on the program, visit wagmtv.com. Kathy McCarty, NewsSource 8

Maine AgrAbility Veteran Resources includes a checklist for veterans looking for farm employment, UMaine Extension’s publication Guide to Veteran-to-Farmer Training Pilot Program Resources in Maine and links to other relevant local and national programs.

For more information, contact 207-944-1533, 800-287-1478 (in Maine), or maine.agrability@maine.edu.

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