CONNEAUT TOWNSHIP — Military service and farm life meshed in Crawford County on Friday as an area farm was featured in a Veteran Farm Field Day organized by the Pennsylvania Veteran Farming Project.
The farm, Pyma Love Farm, is owned and operated by Garret and Natalie Love, both veterans of the Ohio Air National Guard. The Loves gave a tour of their Angus beef farm to a group of other farmers, discussing techniques and products they use on their roughly 90-acre farmland.
The Loves both joined the military shortly after 9/11, with Natalie serving for 17 years as an active Guard Reserve and Garret spending 14 years as a technician working on C-130 planes. Natalie was introduced to military service through a cousin, while Garret signed on for different reasons.
“In the beginning, I joined for college money and turned it into a career,” Garret said.
Their farm has been passed down through Garret’s family through three generations. It was initially founded after his grandparents moved to the area in the 1950s, being handed off to Garret’s father and then Garret himself.
The farm is located outside of Linesville, straddling the Pennsylvania and Ohio border.
The Loves’ service with the military played a big part in how they set up their farm. Knowing that one of them could be called up for duty at any time, the pair tried to make it so as many tasks as possible could be done by a single person.
Such things included modifying tractors to make it easier to load and haul things to making a gate system that lessens the difficulty of moving their herd around the farm. In fact, the pair have trained their cattle to move whenever called, allowing the herd to be moved from one pasture to another with relative ease.
“Ninety percent of the things with the cows can be done by one person,” Natalie said.
Both saw overseas deployment. Garret was twice deployed to Afghanistan, while Natalie served at Al Dhafra.
The pair are also big on avoiding the use of pesticides and drugs when possible, preferring to use natural solutions. They even utilize a natural fly repellent involving essential oils which forms an oily layer on the cattle, which can kill off flies.
In addition to their beef cattle, the two also make a living selling hay, something Garret noted is a particularly lucrative market at the moment. The two have even downsized their herd, though do not plan to get out of the cattle-raising business anytime soon.
“I love the cows,” Natalie said. “I told Garret if we get rid of the cows, I have no desire to farm.”
The Loves responded to various questions and comments from other farmers, going into specifics of their farming operation. The attending farmers also heard from representatives of various farm organizations, such as the Crawford County Conservation District, AGChoice Farm Credit and the Natural Resources Conservation Service on programs and services to benefit farmers.
Mimi Thomas-Brooker, project director of the Pennsylvania Veteran Farming Project, said she was satisfied with how the event went. This was the first Veteran Farm Field Day of the season, and a return to an in-person program compared to the remote-style events the group has had to hold during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I thought it went really well,” Thomas-Brooker said. “It was an informal workshop, which is a refreshing change from all the Zoom we’ve been doing.”
Veteran Farm Field Days have been held since 2018, with around five typically held each year in various locations across Pennsylvania. The next day is planned for July 10 at Jacob’s Valley Farm in Hanover, York County.
Thomas-Brooker said the days are important as they provide a “huge educational benefit” for participating farmers to hear what does and doesn’t work on other farms. Further, they highlight the hardwork and skills of veterans who have become farmers.
“Veterans, they seem to have a connection with the land,” Thomas-Brooker said. “They’re good land stewards, and we need to highlight that.”
Anyone interested in attending a future Veteran Farm Field Day event can learn more by going to troopstotractors.org.
Sean P. Ray can be reached at (814) 724-6370 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.