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Ag Warriors Program
<p>Tulare Calif.-based company J.D. Heiskell is participating in the Ag Warrior program, which serves as an opportunity for veterans to be connected with careers in agriculture. Heiskell&#39;s board chairman Scot Hillman, left, recently hired Tulare resident Nick Hanhart, a Navy veteran to work for the large feed mill company.</p>

World Ag Expo transfers Ag Warrior Program

Large Tulare agricultural company hires returning Navy veteran.

Opening day of the World Ag Expo in Tulare, Calif., saw low clouds and grey skies give way to bright sun and a flurry of activity as vendors showcased their latest pieces of equipment and services to curious visitors.

Welcomed rain just ahead of the World Ag Expo seemed to do little to dampen attendance as the international showcase attracted visitors from around the globe and drew dignitaries including California Food and Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross for Tuesday morning's opening ceremonies and a promise from California Governor Edmund G. Brown's office that he would visit the expo Wednesday morning.

Opening ceremonies also saw International AgriCenter Chief Executive Officer Jerry Sinift officially hand over the reins of a program started in 2011 to help place veterans in agricultural career fields. Former President George W. Bush helped the IAC kick off its Ag Warriors program at the time, and last year the organization brought in retired Marine Lt. Col. Oliver North to help promote the program.

Sinift said the program would be handed over to because that organization is much better equipped to serve veterans searching for employment in agricultural fields.

“While we believe in the program, we're not as equipped to serve the veterans in finding work as is,” Sinift said. “We know trade shows and agricultural expositions, so we will focus our efforts there and let them help veterans find careers in agriculture.”

Tulare resident Nick Hanart is just one example of connecting agricultural employers with veterans. Hanart served as a hospital corpsman in the U.S. Navy for five years, where he also completed two tours of duty to the Middle East.

Hanart is now employed by J.D. Heiskell, a 127-year-old Tulare-based company that operates feed mills in Central California and throughout the United States.

Heiskell's chairman of the board, Scot Hillman, said Hanart was first brought on as an intern to learn the ropes of the Tulare-based feed mill operation. Hanart was later offered a full-time position after his leadership skills, which were developed in the U.S. Navy, were realized.

“He has great leadership skills,” Hillman said. “We call him an athlete because he's so quick to learn and we can cross-train him.”

Hanart is currently learning the various facets of Heiskell's milling operation. He said there is currently no single facet of the organization that he is focused on - he is simply working to learn as much about the overall operation as he can in hopes of developing a long career in the feed mill industry.

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