From Air Force to Acreage
After serving their country, two Air Force veterans, Kipp and Ivory Harlow, knew farming was their natural fit. Both came from rural America, and always planned on going back.
“Buying a farm felt like coming home. I’m not sure how to explain that better, it’s the only life we want,” said Ivory.
Today, the veterans reside on their farm, Dickie Bird Farm, LLC, near Chillicothe, Ohio. Established in 2012, Dickie Bird Farm started as a small scale vegetable and egg operation, and sold products directly from the farm, at farmer’s markets and in local retail stores. However, shortly after their start, the Harlow’s found their passion in raising goats. Currently, they raise Boer goats for exhibition and meat sales, mixed grass hay and game birds.
“Goats and hay started as side enterprises, but proved to be profitable for us. We pivoted Dickie Bird Farm to focus on small ruminant production and small square hay bales because it made financial sense,” says Ivory.
Finances and figuring out profitability were just a few challenges the Harlow’s faced when starting out. Like many beginning farmers, they faced difficulties with access to land, finding the right markets and navigating complex food safety regulations. The couple advise others in similar situations to “keep their eyes on the books and their mind open to different kinds of operations.”
“If you asked me at the beginning if I would ever be a hay farmer, I would’ve laughed! Now I spend all summer, every summer, bailing hay,” comments Ivory.
Making the Transition
Kipp enlisted in the Unites States Air Force (USAF) in 1990. He served a total of eight years at home and abroad, active duty and Air National Guard. Ivory enlisted in the USAF in 2000. She served four years’ active duty and is a Post 9-11 veteran.
“My transition was made easier by fellow farmers and agriculture experts’ willingness to teach and guide me,” says Ivory, “I suggest networking with others to learn best practices and then applying them.”
Dickie Bird Farm is Farmer Veteran Coalition certified to sell farm products under the Homegrown by Heroes label. According to the Farmer Veteran Coalition, Homegrown by Heroes (HBH) is the official farmer veteran branding program of America, and serves to inform consumers that products displaying the logo were produced by military veterans.
No matter the amount of hours or the heat of the day, the Harlow’s find their work extremely satisfying.
“After wrapping up a 16-hour day of baling hay in humid, 88 degree weather, Kipp and I drove to Wendy’s for Frosties because we were literally too tired to chew food,” said Ivory, “We sat on the tailgate as the sun went down and reflected on how it was the best day ever. Don’t get me wrong, it was hard and awful while we were doing it, but it was satisfying work to have done.”
As they look to the future, the couple plans to expand their game bird operation to include new species and breeds of game birds over the next few years. They also plan to grow their goat herd and increase hay production. The Harlow’s aimed high in their military careers, and their farming career won’t be any different.
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