WASHINGTON—A new resource guide developed by the American Farm Bureau Federation and the Farmer Veteran Coalition Partnership is now available.
AFBF and the FVC are working together to train beginning farmers, make equipment available to veteran farmers and help find farm ownership or employment opportunities for members of the military transitioning into the civilian workforce.
“Through this partnership, I am optimistic returning veterans will learn how to continue their service to our country by helping feed its citizens, nourish its land and make its rural communities more viable through the many entrepreneurial opportunities agriculture has to offer,” said AFBF President Bob Stallman.
The resource guide outlines ways to participate in the new partnership and assist returning veterans interested in staking their futures on agriculture and rural America.
“We’re working to cultivate a new generation of farmers and food leaders, in addition to developing viable employment and meaningful careers through the collaboration of the farming and military communities,” said Michael O’Gorman, FVC executive director. “We believe that veterans possess the unique skills and character needed to strengthen rural communities and create sustainable food systems for all. We believe that food production offers purpose and opportunity, as well as physical and psychological benefits.”
Service members returning from Iraq and Afghanistan have become the latest group of veterans in need of employment and, by some measures, the most likely young people to enter agriculture and other rural-based businesses. Only 17 percent of the U.S. population calls rural communities home, yet 44 percent of military recruits come from rural America.
Virginia Beach produce farmer John Wilson of New Earth Farm served as a mentor for two Navy veterans, Coleman and Bridget Ruiz. The Ruizes had a deep interest in raising food, but weren’t sure where to begin.
They started working on Wilson’s farm in order to learn more about agriculture. They also helped with his online farm market and community-supported agriculture operation, and helped build high tunnels where they grew produce.
“When farmers and veterans can come together, it’s really a great opportunity for all who are involved,” said Coleman Ruiz. “The information we received from John is invaluable.”
The Ruizes later relocated to Maryland, where they purchased a home on 6 acres and started farming on their own.
“We are so grateful to John for the opportunity to learn so much before buying land ourselves,” Bridget Ruiz said. “We used the knowledge we’ve gained from working with John on our own land in Maryland.”
For more information about the FVC, visit farmvetco.org.
Media: Contact Tracy Taylor Grondine, 202-406-3642, or Cyndie Sirekis, 202-406-3649, AFBF communications; or Sara Owens, VFBF communications, at 804-290-1133.