Starting a new business can be a risky undertaking, and breaking into the ag sector can be even tougher, but a York man has done both.
Dan Hromas spends a better part of his day with the birds.
“Six-hundred happy healthy birds,” Hromas says of the Rhode Island Reds he raises. “Production, we’re collecting well over 400 eggs a day.”
Hromas started Prairie Pride Poultry – a three-acre pastured egg farm – just over a year ago.
“[Our motto is] ‘Happy Hens Lay Healthy Eggs,’ so that’s really the holistic core of our farm is humane treatment of the livestock,” he says.
The Marine Corps, Army, and Nebraska National Guard veteran says it’s been a two year journey going from serviceman to beginning farmer. Before getting his 600 “girls” on the farm, Hromas found local, state, and national programs aimed at helping disabled vets like him start and grow ag-businesses.
“They helped me do market analysis, feasibility study, helped me with drawing up my business plan,” says Hromas.
Carol Blood, a business specialist at Nebraska Self-Employment Services, says it’s a process that takes determination and discipline – traits that veterans like Hromas have.
“He had done his research and that to me too is always a really good clue that that person is going to be able to make it a viable business because they’re not going into it blindly,” says Blood.
Hromas’ dream fit the mission of a national group called the Farmer Veteran Coalition. FVC Farm Business Development Director Chet Bennetts, who is based in Nebraska, says they connected Hromas to funding and planning help.
“Being able to have peer-to-peer, veteran-to-veteran relation – it just gives it that much more probability of success,” says Bennetts. “New businesses are difficult and they are hard to start.”
Hromas says countless others helped Prairie Pride get off the ground.
“Like a domino or snowball effect where I meet one person from one organization and then another from another and so on and so forth, that’s how I found out about these grant opportunities for me,” he says.
His message to other vets: persistence is a must.
“I owe it all to everybody else – consumers and all the people I’ve networked with,” he says. “I enjoy what I do, I love my chickens, I love my family, I love the eggs.”
As of May 1, Hromas is one of the first farmer veterans in the nation to earn the new “Homegrown by Heroes” designation. It’s a label he can put on his eggs certifying they’ve been grown by a veteran.