In recent years, a host of programs – many of them run by veterans or private organizations – have sprung up to provide opportunities for veterans to turn their weapons into plowshares, including:
- The Farmer Veteran Coalition (FVC) (www.farmvetco.org). A nationwide nonprofit based in California, FVC hosts career fairs and educational retreats, matches individual veterans with mentors in their areas of interest, and sponsors a fellowship program to help launch the food and farming careers of veterans.
- The Veterans Sustainable Agriculture Training Program (VSAT) is an intensive six-week course offering trainees instruction in hydroponics, drip/micro irrigation, soil biology, environmental control, and business development. Originally launched near San Diego at Archi’s Acres Inc. (archisacres.com), a veteran-owned farm, the training is conducted in partnership with California Polytechnic University, Pomona.
- Veterans Farm, established by Iraq veteran Adam Burke, is an all-volunteer farm on 13 acres near Jacksonville, Florida. Veterans from northeast Florida and southern Georgia serve a six-month fellowship, learning the skills and knowledge needed to establish their own farming careers. Open to anyone who has served two years, the fellowship, begun in August 2011, has most often been awarded to veterans with some type of disability rating.
- Combat Boots to Cowboy Boots, a program launched in 2010 by the University of Nebraska’s College of Technical Agriculture (NCTA), helps young farmers compose a business plan and launch a farming or ranching enterprise with coursework and low-interest loans. Students graduate with a business partnership and an associate degree.
One of the NCTA’s partners in the Combat Boots to Cowboy Boots program is the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which has numerous initiatives for young ranchers and farmers – but until the 2014 Farm Bill had implemented few veteran-specific programs. That’s begun to change: Many of the programs authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill, including the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, are required to spend a share of their funding on projects that serve military veterans.
In November 2014, USDA named its first military veterans agricultural liaison, a position created by the 2014 Farm Bill, to educate veterans about farming, work to connect them with agricultural training programs, and advocate for them at USDA.
USDA’s New Farmers website has a portal (newfarmers.usda.gov/veterans) devoted specifically to veterans interested in exploring opportunities for veterans in agriculture.
This article was on opportunities for veterans was originally published in the 2016 edition of U.S. Agriculture Outlook.