Farmer Veterans Celebrate Agriculture Day

Farmer veterans attend AG day at the Connecticut Statehouse

March 20, 2024

The annual event known as Connecticut Agricultural Day returned to the State Capitol on the first day of spring, March 20. The day is dedicated to celebrating farms across the state, or as Agriculture Commissioner Bryan Hurlburt said, “from the ground to the sound.” The main floor of the State Capitol was full of exhibitors and students focused on the varied spectrum of farming across Connecticut.

The day was also dedicated to recognizing veteran-owned farms in Connecticut. Retired Marine Sergeant Jared McCool, who owns Steadfast Farms in Bethlehem, was included in the spotlight. He was honored as the outstanding young farmer for 2024.

Veteran Jared McCool Named Connecticut's Young Farmer of the Year

Unlike many past Connecticut Outstanding Young Farmer (OYF) recipients, the 2024 honoree is a relative newcomer to agriculture. In fact, it began on a pheasant hunting trip with friends following his time with the US Marine Corps. Jared McCool, owner of Steadfast Farms and Steadfast Farms Poultry Processing and Slaughter in Bethlehem was named Connecticut’s Outstanding Young Farmer during Ag Day at the Capitol in Hartford on March 20, 2024.

“In just 8 years, I went from being a complete novice with no background in agriculture to being honored as the 2024 Outstanding Young Farmer,” says McCool. “I hope my journey stands as a testament and source of inspiration for those venturing into agriculture regardless of your background. The abundance of programs, resources, and supportive community in Connecticut made this achievement possible.”

Veteran Farmer Jared McCool holds his award for CT's 2024 Young Farmer of the YearFarming was not just a career change – it was a continuation of his service domestically, embodying the same values of dedication, resilience, and mission accomplishment that he learned in the military. Gathering all the resources he had to start farming on just over 3 acres of land while also working a full-time job in the fast-paced tech industry, McCool established his veteran owned and operated farm in 2017 with a focus on poultry, gamebirds, and food manufacturing.

His farm operation surpassed all expectations, expanding from 1,200 live birds in the first year to a projected 65,000 live birds in 2024. All the while establishing the state’s only USDA Inspected Poultry Slaughter facility in 2023, with plans to bring another 10,000+ birds to Connecticut’s marketplace for locally grown poultry.

McCool’s vision extends far beyond live upland game birds and producing quality poultry products – he’s seeking to revolutionize the local food industry by offering locally raised, health-conscious alternatives to mainstream poultry while creating job opportunities, particularly for veterans, in the community.

He has implemented regenerative practices across all operations to improve soil health and reuse by-product material to minimize their waste footprint.

He is also actively engaged in various community organizations and activities. The most notable among them include spearheading the formation of a local chapter of Farmer Veteran Coalition in Connecticut, where he conducts outreach to veterans seeking to enter agriculture as well as those currently involved. McCool is a staunch advocate for farm viability as a member of the Connecticut Farm Bureau and Farm Credit East’s Customer Service Council.

“Jared is a leader, innovator, and role model for Veterans, new and beginning farmers and anyone looking to make their career in CT agriculture as a first-generation farmer. That is why I was eager to nominate Jared for this year’s Outstanding Young Farmer of the Year Award,” said Amanda Fargo-Johnson, Agricultural Programs Director at CT Resource Conservation & Development and McCool’s nominator. “I’m thrilled that he was selected knowing the amount of dedication and time spent not only on his operations at Steadfast Farms and Steadfast Farms Poultry Processing & Slaughter but also the time he invests in his community, other agricultural producers, and with farmer veterans across the state eager to help them succeed.  CT RC&D has a long history of working with Jared over the last seven years through the CT Farm Energy Program when Jared installed Solar PV at the farm, the FarmUP/Veteran FarmUP programs, working closely with him to form the Connecticut Chapter of Farmer Veteran Coalition, and the creation of the CT Veteran Grown brand. This award is well deserved for Jared’s service in the military and now for his dedication and service in feeding his community.”

Administered by the Connecticut Agricultural Information Council (CAIC), the purpose of the Outstanding Young Farmers Program is to bring about a greater interest in the farmer to foster better urban-rural relations through the understanding of the farmers’ endeavors, to develop further appreciation for their contributions and achievements, and to inform the agribusiness community of the growing urban awareness of farmers’ importance and impact on America’s economy. The Connecticut OYF program is modeled directly on the National OYF program. McCool can now apply to compete for the National OYF award.

“Jared’s recognition as Outstanding Young Farmer is well deserved and signifies that farming is a viable career for anyone with determination and passion,” said Agriculture Commissioner Bryan P. Hurlburt. “Whether on the farm, in the processing facility, or serving on a board, his contributions to Connecticut agriculture have been tremendous and will have a meaningful impact for years to come.”

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