This topic hits close to home. My sister is an active member of the US military, currently serving an 11-month tour of duty in Afghanistan. When her tour is over, she will complete her remaining 11 months of service in the US, and then start a new chapter without the uniform.
Many men and women serving in all branches of the US Armed Forces are faced with the same challenges my sister will encounter after her military service ends. They leave their posts with a strong work ethic, discipline and commitment to success. The challenge is to transition those skills into well-paid employment in an already struggling economy.
The shift from the military to civilian life is not always easy. Unemployment rates for veterans are twice the national average. Suicide rates are at an all-time high, especially for those who were wounded in combat or suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Fortunately, several organizations are tackling these problems head-on by offering programs and resources for veterans interested in sustainable agriculture. These programs serve two purposes: provide valuable hands-on job training while introducing the country to a group of new farmers, dedicated to growing their local food economies.
If you are a veteran or know a veteran interested in becoming a farmer, here are a few resources to consider:
- The Farmer Veteran Coalition offers a comprehensive resource guide that details employment, training and fellowship opportunities available specifically for veterans. The guide is tailored to both beginning and established farmers, and includes an extensive list of financing options, business planning tips and where to find additional supporting organizations.
- Based in Colorado, Veterans to Farmers is a non-profit organization – founded by former US Marine Buck Adams – focused on teaching veterans organic, controlled-environment growing techniques. Training programs are offered in 9 to 12 month cycles, with an emphasis on organic hydroponic agriculture. Students leave the program with skills in systems construction, greenhouse maintenance and operations, plant propagation and business management planning.
- Veterans Farm grows blueberries and peppers in containers, allowing for wheelchair accessibility. Located in Jacksonville, Florida, the farm offers a 6-month horticultural therapy program where participants harness their military leadership skills and apply them to successful entrepreneurship ventures in agriculture.
- The founders of Archi’s Acres, a farm in Southern California, developed the Veterans Sustainable Agriculture Training (VSAT) program to help transition service men and women into the sustainable agriculture industry. The program consists of over 240 hours of hands-on farm training, farm management, business planning and entrepreneurship.
- The Center for Rural Affairs, a non-profit organization dedicated to establishing and maintaining strong rural communities, developed the Veteran Farmers Project. Participants gain access to training, individual consultation and a helpline for specialized answers.
- Beginning Farmers is an online resource for farmers, researchers and policy makers. The website includes a section of veteran farmer success stories, training and employment opportunities.
Image Credits: Farmer Veteran Coalition