In honor of Veteran’s Day (Sunday, November 11), I thought I’d update a story I wrote about a couple of years ago about a wonderful program that works to train veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan: The Farmer Veteran Coalition.
The mission of the Farmer-Veteran Coalition (FVC) is to mobilize veterans to feed America. Their motto is “Farmers Helping Veterans-Veterans Helping Farmers.”
FVC was started by experienced farmers who share their experience with recent military veterans and help them use their skills to create a new generation of innovative, ecological and financially successful young farmers. They do this through direct assistance, and training and mentorship programs.
The organization recognizes that veterans possess unique skills and the character necessary to create sustainable food systems. Farming requires hard work and dedication, and this makes a farm a good place for returning veterans because they are used to hard work, discipline, and dedication.
FVC helps returning veterans find employment, training and “places to heal on America’s farms.” The garden, or the farm, is a refuge for anyone seeking solace, quiet, reflection, or comfort in difficult times, and researchers have actually found that the right environment–usually one with natural elements–can promote healing.
The group points out that the sustainable farming movement and growing support for local and regional agriculture and small farms will likely mean that there will be an increased need for full-time farmers in the United States.
The Coalition also points out that there has been a disproportionate number of soldiers in the military coming from rural communities who are often unable to find employment when returning to their rural communities due to a lack of job opportunities. Still others want to return to their family farms and make them successful and some of them want to start farming for the first time.
The unemployment rates in rural areas has only increased with the current US economic crisis. This has created a shortage of younger workers who are choosing to move to urban areas.
In addition, America’s farmers are aging, with the average age being between 55 and 58 years old. They have nobody to pass their farms on to and agriculture needs young, trained farmers to revitalize it and begin farming.
FVC has created the “Farmer Veteran Coalition Fellowship Fund” to help veterans establish farming or food related business enterprises, study farming, or pursue another supportive area in agriculture. They have received grant funds from the Bob Woodruff Foundation, which provides resources and support to injured service members, veterans, and their families.
Those who are interested in supporting their work can offer jobs or training, can volunteer to help with tasks such as fundraising, or can donate services or items such as housing, transportation and facilities. You can even help Veteran Fellows by donating seed crops, equipment, and other in-kind products or sponsor a Farmer-Veteran. Monetary donations are also accepted online.
For those veterans interested in employment and training opportunities, the Farmers Veterans Coalition can not only help you get started but has a list of resources available including general veteran’s resources, as well as links to jobs, education and training programs, land available and to other veteran’s and farm groups with farm programs.