Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Veterans can serve as leaders on America's farms; programs offer opportunities

Approximately 45 percent of armed services members are from rural America, and a chart from the USDA's Economic Research Service (ERS) shows that 3.9 million veterans live in rural areas now, as opposed to 6.6 million 20 years ago. "However, in spite of a decline in the number of rural veterans, because they are aging in greater numbers than the general population, those who have served still make up 10 percent of the rural population," Ann Tracy Mueller writes for Agri-Pulse.

Many of those who work on farms are older veterans, and they are "well situated to take on leadership roles in rural communities," according to the ERS's November 2013 brief. By 2050, American agriculture will be expected to help feed a world population of 9 billion people, and more farmers will be needed. Various organizations help provide "training, marketing and financial help to soldiers wishing to return to the nation's agrarian roots," Mueller reports.

For example, the Farmer-Veteran Coalition assists returning veterans in finding work and training on farms and ranches. Veterans Farm helps bring veterans back into society by offering a Beginning Farmer fellowship program, during which veterans can gain the education needed to start their own farms or work for larger farming organizations. Other examples of such programs are Veterans Sustainable Agriculture Training, Armed to Farm and the Veteran Farmers Project.

The USDA is supporting veterans through a variety of projects to assist those who wish to get involved with agriculture. For example, more than $9 million is available for outreach and technical assistance for veterans who are new to farming and ranching. "Known as the 2501 program, [it] will help community-based organizations and partners work with these groups to acquire, own and operate farms and participate in USDA programs," Mueller writes. (Read more)

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