Today, veterans are finding a new way to serve their country after separating from the military. Veterans are leaving battlefields and finding themselves on farm fields taking on a new challenge for the sake of themselves and America. With a rise in population, and a decrease in the number of American farmers, veteran farmers could be exactly what America is looking for in the battle to supply Americans with top quality food. Thanks to organizations and the farming industry, veterans are being welcomed into a field that is desperate for a new generation of farmers.
Veteran farmers are entering the agricultural industry growing organic vegetables, raising livestock, harvesting maple, and even industrial Hemp for commercial products. Some of these veterans are combat veterans who have seen the worse of war. For these veterans, farming has brought a sense of comfort and relaxation. Though for all veteran farmers, farming has also brought a sense of pride, knowing that although out of uniform, they are continuing to serve their country by being a part of the new generation of farmers this country desperately needs.
In early 2014, the Agricultural Bill otherwise known as the 2014 Farm Bill was passed with key provisions to further support veteran farmers. The bill gives veterans opportunities to acquire land through the Conservation Reserve Program, increases more advocacy by creating a Military Veterans Agricultural Liaison, and modifies the USDA Operating Loan program that limits the interest rate just to name a few. To learn more about Farm Bill 2014 check out http://www.groundoperations.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/2014-Farm-Bill-Veterans-Handout.pdf
Let’s take a look at some veterans who have made the transition from military to farming:
Mike Lewis (Army veteran) http://growingwarriors.org/
Mike is Executive Director of The Growing Warriors Project and is now also certified to grow hemp for commercial products in Kentucky.
Evan Premer (Army veteran) http://www.aerofarmco.com/
Even with his mother Esther run Aero Farm Co. in Colorado growing produce in the states first vertical farm.
Mark and Denise Beyers (Marine Corps veterans) http://beyersmaplefarm.com/
Mark and Denise produce 100% pure maple syrup on Beyers Maple farm in New York.
Althea and Matthew Raiford (Navy veteran & Army veteran) http://www.gilliardfarms.com/index.html
Althea and brother Matthew run Gilliard farms in Georgia raising livestock and producing organic produce.
Colin Archipley (Marine Corps veteran) http://archisacres.com/
Colin and wife Karen run Archi’s Acres producing organic produce using hydroponic technology in California.
Mickey Clayton (Army veteran) http://www.dotranchchurros.com/
Mickey runs Dot Ranch in Oregon raising livestock, selling meat and wool
Being a farmer veteran may not be for everyone, but for those interested in joining this new generation of farmers, understand that support is out there. With the help from organizations such as Farmer Veteran Coalition, Homegrown by Heroes, Veterans to Farmers, The Veterans Sustainable Agriculture (VSAT) and other organizations, veterans are finding great opportunities to get started. This is another way you can serve your country and still have a hand in protecting America through food security.