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Goats at Millcreek Dairy. Courtesy photo.




Veteran farmers
New nonprofit seeks to pair vets with agribusiness

02/02/17
By Ryan Lessard news@hippopress.com



 Farms need farmers and many disabled veterans need jobs; that’s why Rebecca Beaulieu and her husband Ken Beaulieu of Derry started Veterans Chapel Farm, a nonprofit organization that will provide free agricultural training to veterans and then provide land to use at Millcreek Dairy in Chester.

Right now, they have four veterans in the program, including Ken. One is using a plot of land to raise chickens and turkeys, another has a hop yard for growing hops and a third is making goat cheese from the milk the dairy produces.
“Whether it be vegetable production or livestock, we kind of cater to what it is they’re interested in,” CEO Rebecca Beaulieu said.
The Beaulieus started the program in partnership with Jeff Geary, co-owner of Millcreek Dairy with Ken Beaulieu. The products that come out of the veterans’ work are sold at farmers markets and the Millcreek retail store. The participating veterans keep most of the profits with a portion going to the nonprofit.
Beaulieu said they can accommodate up to 12 participants at a time right now and hope to enroll four more within the next six months. 
While there are a few more openings at Millcreek Dairy, Beaulieu is looking for additional partner farms who will be willing to take in veteran workers and their side ventures.
While Beaulieu says the program can introduce veterans to an industry that can prove healing and therapeutic for many, it can also benefit farms. Many family farmers are aging out of the business and don’t have someone else to take over for them when they retire.
“We feel like veterans are uniquely equipped to farming, they have some of the characteristics that farmers really need, and what better place for a disabled veteran who maybe cannot return to the workforce and the capacity that they were in the military, to be able to heal here, be able to grow, to connect with other veterans … and giving back to the community in that way,” Beaulieu said.
Veterans Chapel Farm is teaming up with the University of New Hampshire agriculture program to train the vets. They then put together a business plan and after it’s workshopped and approved, they begin their business incubation. The idea is for them to spend about three years on Millcreek or future partnering farms before graduating and moving on.
While Beaulieu grew up on a farm, her husband Ken is a disabled Navy veteran who, after years of looking for a new career, decided to give farming a try. They received some training from UNH and connected with the Farmer Veteran Coalition in California.
After they moved to New Hampshire, they did some research and found that no similar program exists here.
“[We] thought, well, if we don’t have one, we’re going to make one,” Beaulieu said.
Veterans Chapel Farm is partnering with a separate tiny house program in Lee organized by the Veterans Resort Chapel. Rebecca Beaulieu hopes that in addition to the existing three tiny houses there, 10 more will be built within the next year. One of the current farm program participants is living in one of the tiny houses.
Veterans interested in participating in the Veterans Chapel Farm program are encouraged to email veteranschapelfarm@gmail.com or call Millcreek Dairy at 887-6455.





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