We visited this week with Army Veteran Tammy Preble from Honesdale, in northeast PA, not far from the New York border.
Tell us about your military service. “I served in the Army Reserves from 2000-2008 and completed one deployment to Iraq, working in both psyops and PR.”
What type of farming do you do? “I grew up around horses so was around animals as child. After the military, we moved to northeast PA, where there’s really no horse industry. With a toddler, I wasn’t looking for a full time job but we found farm property that’s ideal for raising a family. That led us to meet the dairy farmer down the way, who cuts hay on my property. He was interested in expanding into raw milk but with the dairy operation to run day-to-day, didn’t have the time to devote to the administrative side. Together we’re transitioning to on-the-farm beef sales as well as raw milk.
“On our 40- acres we’re also growing about four acres of veggies and in the process of getting into non-certified organic produce. Certified organic is dominated by big Ag, making it hard to get into for small farmers due to the time and expense of complying with the requirements. My plan is to stay small to allow me to stay on top of my farm and do no spraying.’
“We sell from the dairy farm on a farm stand for milk and beef and through a co-op local to the area. The co-op works something like a food hub—we participate in a CSA and wholesale to local restaurants. Working with chefs can be a challenge as they need consistent quantities, which can be tough for smaller producers.”
How did you acquire land and finance your operation? Tammy and her husband, who is also a Veteran and works off the farm, bought their 40 acres upon moving from Maryland, where they owned a home. Tammy worked in the equine industry in MD, where she was required to live on the horse farm, so when they moved here they made the decision to keep their home in Maryland as rental property. They used their VA home loan eligibility to purchase here in PA.
What do you wish you knew about before you got into Ag? “The hours. Military are more familiar w/ the long hours than others, but still-- if you don't have the support of your family it won't work. The family dynamic plays a huge role in farming--If you have 2 people working toward the same goal it makes a big impact.
“Veterans considering transitioning into farming need to understand that much like life in the military, life on a farm is non-stop-- almost like a constant deployment. Your family has to be understanding of the time demands and demands of the livestock taking precedence over everything else. Christmas, holidays, birthdays--you've got to plan ahead.”
Learn more about Fertile Valley Farms at www.facebook.com/pg/fertilevalleyrawmilk