Army Veteran Leaves Legacy at Turner Farm
After more than 18 months of training in Turner Farm’s Veteran to Farmer Training Program (VFTP), Austin See is ready for his next adventure.
A native of Dayton, See has been studying and practicing organic farming since coming onboard at the farm in the spring of 2016.
During his first year, See trained with the Turner Farm garden and livestock staff, learning the fundamentals of organic produce production from seed to market and assisting with the care of the farm’s animals.
In March, See took over the Veteran Garden, growing garlic, peppers, tomatoes and various leaf vegetables for sale at local markets, the Turner Farm Market and to restaurants.
He also spearheaded the first-ever plant sale at the farm, which was a wildly successful event that drew hundreds of customers to the farm to support veterans in organic agriculture.
“It’s been an amazing ride. Turner Farm’s Veteran to Farmer Training Program is a completely immersive experience,” said See, who served in the US Army. “I knew very little about growing food or running a business when I started here. Now I have the experience of both.”
See served in the Army from 2003-2006, reaching the rank of specialist. He was initially trained as an airspace management and control operator, but was tapped to participate in convoy security during Operation Iraqi Freedom, to which he deployed for 12 months in 2005.
“Once we got into combat, the job we were trained to do didn’t matter much. What mattered was that I was a soldier and could handle a weapon,” See said. “I was put on top of a Humvee behind a 50-caliber machine gun and made a part of the brigade security detachment.
“We transported our leadership through some very dangerous areas in the ‘Red Zone,’ typically working long hours every day of the week in some very stressful conditions.”
See believes the mission focus, mental and physical demands and daily uncertainty of serving in combat prepared him well for his work as a farmer.
See is departing the VFTP to take advantage of a free home in Kokomo, Indiana, courtesy of Homes on the Homefront, a nonprofit organization that matches combat veterans to bank-owned residential properties. He has received a move-in ready house that he is responsible for maintaining for two years. After that time, he will receive the deed to the home free and clear of any mortgage.
See credits his experience in the VFTP for helping him navigate the rigorous screening process required for Homes on the Homefront.
“I’ve been blessed by the organizational skills and confidence the VFTP have provided me over the past 18 months,” See said. “Turner Farm does an amazing job training farmers and providing opportunities for men and women who have served in the Armed Forces.”
See is turning over the reins of the Veteran Garden to Kate Martin, a Marine Corps veteran who is currently in her first growing season at Turner Farm.
Martin will begin growing produce in the Veteran Garden this fall and plans to focus on herbs and cut flowers during the 2018 growing season. She also plans to build on See’s legacy by increasing the size and scope of the veteran-led springtime plant sale.
“It’s been a true gift to get to know and work with Austin. He set a high bar for what we can accomplish in the Veteran Garden and the VFTP,” Martin said. “I look forward to carrying the torch forward and providing the same leadership and support to the next veteran as Austin has provided me.”