“Agriculture is not often the first thing people think of for returning veterans. That’s why we are elevating the discussion about veterans and agriculture.” ~Secretary Vilsack
This week, USDA hosted a meeting with veterans to discuss their experiences in agriculture, their food businesses and what the most pressing needs are for veterans participating in agriculture with Secretary Vilsack, Deputy Secretary Harden and Military Veterans Agriculture Liaison Karis Gutter.
This week, Secretary Vilsack, Deputy Secretary Harden and I met with 35 military veterans who are now farmers and ranchers. Hosted by the Farmer Veteran Coalition and the Farm Credit Council, these men and women came to USDA to discuss the opportunities and resources available to veterans interested in agriculture. Many of them participate in the Homegrown by Heroes campaign which celebrates local products grown, raised and produced by farmer veterans across the country.
As the Department’s Military Veteran Agricultural Liaison and a veteran of the Marine Corps myself, I know there are many reasons military veterans turn to agriculture. For some, running a farm business gives them an opportunity to put their logistical training to work. For others, farming lets them continue serving their community. Many veterans talk about how working on the land helps them successfully transition to civilian life. And still others discuss how agriculture gives them purpose.
No one can explain the deep connection between veterans and agriculture better than veteran farmers themselves. Here are a few of their voices. Read more »
Althea Raiford retired from the Navy in 2010 and works in Maryland as a police officer. But every month she sends money home to Georgia to buy hogs, chickens and feed, some of which have been purchased at a discount through a network of veterans.
“We [veterans] are a family,” said Raiford, who was able to connect with other veteran farmers to receive 20 chickens for free and purchase two hogs for $30 each to jumpstart an operation that she and her brother started in Georgia four years ago. “We take care of our family and we take care of it the best way we know how.”
Raiford was one of nearly 40 veterans who traveled to Kearneysville, W.Va., on Oct. 10 to attend a symposium co-sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture that provides veterans who have an interest in agriculture with financial and business planning information. Read more »
Military veterans-turned-beginning-farmers learn how to build mobile poultry units at an Armed to Farm workshop. Photo credit: University of Arkansas
For many military veterans and their families, the transition from the military to civilian life is a complex undertaking; however, reports and personal accounts indicate that many military veterans have discovered that farming offers a place for employment, training and healing. The problem is there are few educational programs tailored to meet the particular needs and abilities of returning veterans.
The National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s (NIFA) Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP) makes it possible to fill that gap in training. At the University of Arkansas, Dr. Dan Donoghue used BFRDP funds to develop internships, workshops and online courses that focus on the needs of veterans interested in pursuing farming after their service to our country. Read more »