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US (CT): Former Marine scout sniper launches container farm operation

In the heart of Torrington, Connecticut, nestled amidst rolling wooded hills and picturesque landscapes, lies Thy Neighbor's Farm, a beacon of sustainable agriculture and community resilience. This small, family-run farm has been quietly reshaping the local food scene, one harvest at a time, with their commitment to traditional farming techniques and ethical stewardship of their land and animals.

"For Thy Neighbor's Farm, farming isn't just a livelihood; it's a way of life rooted in our reverence for God, a deep-seated belief in doing what's right, and the power of regenerative agriculture." Their approach is simple yet profound: employing regenerative market garden techniques and eschewing synthetic chemicals and pesticides, favoring organic and all-natural practices. This dedication to sustainable farming ensures that every bite of produce that leaves their fields is not only fresh and flavorful but also nourishing for both the body and the planet.

Supporting neighbors
Steven Thompson was a U.S. Marine Scout Sniper for 10 years, with 4 years of active duty service and 6 years spent in the reserves. Having two combat tours to Helmand Province, Afghanistan, Steven was no stranger to destruction or the loss of life. After a reported "profound spiritual transformation," Steven's course was altered from taking life to now helping sustain it. Now, as a board member of the Connecticut Farmer Veteran Coalition, Steven has his sights set on helping other military veterans continue to serve their communities and making a difference for good through local regenerative agriculture.

When starting "Thy Neighbor's Farm" last year, Thompson emptied his 401k and personally financed the necessary equipment purchases and the clearing of his wooded property, where his family's community-oriented journey came to life. "My wife and I were gardening and homesteading for several years as a hobby and growing food for our family. My kids were eating healthy, nutritious food and vegetables, but I discovered there were a lot of kids in our local community that didn't have access to that kind of food or any food at all. They were going hungry. To help fight this local food insecurity and to make a change for good in our local student body, we applied for the CT Grown for CT Kids Grant."

Community involvement
"Central to our farming philosophy is our belief in God and following the Biblical command to "Love Thy Neighbor as we love ourselves." This principle is the foundation of our mission, the reason for our community involvement, and is where our farm name comes from." Thy Neighbor's Farm is more than just a purveyor of premium produce and humanely raised meats; it's a cornerstone of food assistance in their local community, fostering connections and addressing food insecurity through innovative initiatives like their "Torrington Grown for Torrington's Own" program. By partnering with organizations such as The Community Kitchen of Torrington, Friendly Hands Food Bank, and FISH: NWCT Food Pantry and matching all private donations, Thy Neighbor's Farm can provide nutritious, locally grown food to at-risk and food-insecure families in the area, ensuring that no neighbor goes hungry.

Recently, Thy Neighbor's Farm received a Connecticut Department of Agriculture, ARPA-funded grant that promises to further enhance their impact and sustainability efforts. Through this CT Grown for CT Kids Grant award, Thy Neighbors farm is partnering with their local City of Torrington Public School system to help feed and educate the students of their city. They are using a previously owned Freight Farms container farm.

Thy Neighbors Farm found the unit they wanted through the Secondhand Farms website, which lists the available containers. After receiving confirmation of their grant award, SecondHand Farms coordinated an in-person tour of the unit for Steven with the container's previous owners.

"It was such a simple process, and we received all the help we needed along the way. We are new to these container farms, so having an expert who knew all of the nuances of each manufacturer and the differences between each model year made a huge difference. The whole process has been very easy, with no sales pressure, just the sharing of facts, good conversations, and mutual benefits being met. If anyone is in the market for a used container farm, we couldn't recommend SecondHand Farms more."

Thy Neighbors Farm is excited to embark on this new chapter in their farming journey by incorporating a pre-owned shipping container farm from Secondhand Farms into their operations, and Secondhand Farms is also happy to help. "We're excited to work with the Thompsons, and we hope this will create more opportunities for us to work with organizations receiving funding from State and Federal programs. Their goals for sustainability and community support are exactly the kind of mission that our values align with," said Eliot Merrill, a co-owner of Secondhand Farms.

Efforts to increase sustainability
While their new-to-them container farm will offer many sustainability advantages, one drawback is the power required to operate it. To combat this, Steven is using the remaining funds from not buying a brand new container to build a solar system large enough to meet the required power demands during the summer and offset the majority during the winter months. This innovative approach allows them to grow fresh produce year-round, regardless of Connecticut's colder climate and shorter outdoor growing season.

"When we were evaluating our options and the associated costs of these hydroponics growing containers, we knew the most responsible and sensible way to spend these funds was by purchasing a used unit. The very high costs of a new unit just didn't make sense to us. By purchasing a used unit at a fraction of the price, we can use the rest of the funding to finance a complimentary solar system. We believe that this is an even greater way to stretch this money for more of a climate-smart solution. When looking at options for used shipping container farms, Secondhand Farms was the obvious choice and industry leader. This is a lot of money we are talking about, and we needed to use a vendor we could trust. SecondHand Farms fit the bill, and we have appreciated all their help and knowledge."

As it continues to grow, Thy Neighbor's Farm remains steadfast in its commitment to sustainability, community, and ethical farming practices. By nurturing the land, respecting their animal companions, and feeding their neighbors in need, they embody a force for good that aims to nourish both body and soul.

For more information:
The Neighbors Farm
Email: [email protected]

SecondHand Farms
Eliot Merrill
+1 (906) 282-0405
[email protected]

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