As the global farmer population ages, it is imperative that new farmers are recruited and trained to feed the world’s growing population. Programs across the United States are looking to one highly-qualified group to fill this gap: military veterans. The U.S. armed forces are expected to shed 250,000 veterans per year for the next several years, and many of these men and women will be hoping to build a new life. According to the Farmer Veteran Coalition (FVC), agriculture lends itself to the unique qualities and character of veterans. Growing food allows veterans to put these qualities to work in a way that helps them heal their wounds, feed their communities, and protect the environment for future generations. Here are ten programs around the country helping veterans transition to a healthy, happy life as farmers.
The Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food and Agriculture launched their Veteran Farmer Program this fall in Alexandria, Virginia with a year-long, intensive fellowship on their sustainable farm. The program works to provide a variety of opportunities for veterans to get involved in agriculture. All produce grown by the veterans will be sold at Arcadia’s mobile farmers’ market, which works to improve food access for low-income Washington, D.C. residents.
Armed to Farm, a program of the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT), provides sustainable agriculture training for veterans. NCAT specialists have been involved in seventeen veteran farmer trainings and have reached over eight hundred veterans.
Delaware Valley University in Pennsylvania hosts a one-year, 36-credit certificate program in organic farming. The program is eligible for veteran’s education benefits, and coursework can be applied toward a bachelor’s degree at the university.
In Florida, The Enhancing Veterans Farm Fellows Program enrolls veterans from every era and teaches them everything from creating a business plan to growing organic produce. The mission of the organization is to help veterans reintegrate into society, and it focuses on veterans suffering from brain injury and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), as well as the younger cohort of veterans who are most at-risk of unemployment.
Growing Careers in Agriculture, a program of the Farmer Veteran Coalition, provides training and apprenticeships to Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. Apprenticeships are paid, last three to six months, and offer educational and training opportunities with organic farms and artisan food businesses in northern California.
Heroic Food, a non-profit in New York, trains military veterans for careers in sustainable farming, agricultural trades, and food entrepreneurship. Their Full-Year Immersion Program provides training on their twenty-acre sustainable farm and includes apprenticeships in the local food and agriculture industry.
In southwest Colorado, the Veterans Homestead Project is creating new opportunities for veterans. Their training program in regenerative agriculture includes animal husbandry, cheesemaking, hydroponics, farmers’ market and CSA management, pasture management, and greenhouse production.
A Denver-based nonprofit, Veterans to Farmers hosts a six-week no-cost training program focused on greenhouse production using aeroponic and hydroponic methods. The organization is in the process of expanding to a fifty-acre agro-park in Denver that will employ three hundred veterans and hopes to eventually expand across the state and country.
At California State Polytechnic University in Pomona, the Veteran Sustainable Agriculture Training helps transitioning veterans work toward successful careers in sustainable agriculture. For six to twelve weeks, veterans learn about topics such as hydroponics, greenhouse management, compost, and soil biology. The program, which accepts veteran education benefits, has seen more than three hundred graduates since 2009.
Michigan State University (MSU) offers a residential training program for veteran farmers called Vets to Ag, part of the MSU Institute of Agricultural Technology. The program provides a stipend for veterans while it trains them in agriculture, food, and natural resources, as well as helping them learn career skills such as resume writing and interviews.