By: Morgan Slaven, Program Assistant, Membership and Program Development
*Portions of this blog are used with permission from Jamie Clark Tiralla, author of “Skills acquired in service carrying over to farm life,” an article first published in The Delmarva Farmer.
What do farming and serving in the armed forces have in common? Maybe more than you think. The Farmer Veteran Coalition and the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) are combining forces to provide veterans the skills and resources they need to join the agriculture industry.
The barriers that veterans face when starting a career in agriculture aren’t much different from any other new farmer. Access to land, capital and resources are all high on the list.
“The biggest barrier, I find is coming up with a realistic plan,” says Michael O’Gorman, founder and executive director of Farmer Veteran Coalition. “The media is saturated with hype over new types of agriculture, but it’s not always the most realistic way to start a career in farming.”
An experienced farmer himself, O’Gorman noticed that there were no veteran organizations with a focus in agricultural careers. He started the Farmer Veteran Coalition in 2008 to provide specialized agricultural training for veterans.
The thought of starting a career in which you little or no experience can be intimidating. However, military training has given veterans some of the basic characteristics that are needed to be a successful farmer.
Shaun Alf is a military veteran with 15 years in the Army. He had no farming experience before he started Cheerful Chicken Farm in Disputanta, Va. As he says, it’s easy to learn how to farm, but you can’t exactly teach someone all that goes along with it.
“Farming is the kind of work that requires dedication,” says Alf. He has livestock on his farm that needs to be cared for regardless of the weather or time of day. “It doesn’t matter if there’s rain or lightning or it’s two in the morning. Dealing with those kinds of things are part of farming culture and military culture.”
The Farmer Veteran Coalition’s collaboration with American Farm Bureau Federation has opened many opportunities for success. Earlier in the year, the partners released a new resource guide for state Farm Bureaus to assist veterans entering the agriculture industry. More opportunities for the two organizations to team up are in the works.
“We are developing the National Farmer Mentorship Network to connect new veteran farmers with more established farmers in their community,” said Dr. Lisa Benson, AFBF director of rural development. “Relationships with more established farmers are critical to helping new farmers be successful.”
Learn more about how Farm Bureau and Farmer Veteran Coalition’s resource guide by visiting the Farm Bureau website. Visit farmvetco.org for more resources and information about the Farmer Veteran Coalition.
Portions of this blog are part of an article series featured in The Delmarva Farmer. For the original article and full series, visit www.americanfarm.com.