Our Farming Organization of the Year Award for 2010 went to the Farmer-Veteran Coalition (see http://beginningfarmers.org/farming-organization-of-the-year-farmer-veteran-coalition/). In yesterday's New York Times, there was a great article featuring the work of this organization. I have included an excerpt and link below, along with links to several other similar efforts to help veterans get into farming.
Helping Veterans Trade Their Swords for Plows By (PATRICIA LEIGH BROWN - New York Times full story requires signup)EXCERPT: On an organic farm here in avocado country, a group of young Marines, veterans and Army reservists listened intently to an old hand from the front lines. “Think of it in military terms,” he told the young recruits, some just back from Iraq or Afghanistan. “It’s a matter of survival, an uphill battle. You have to think everything is against you and hope to stay alive.” The battle in question was not the typical ground assault, but organic farming — how to identify beneficial insects, for instance, or to prevent stray frogs from clogging an irrigation system. It was Day 2 of a novel boot camp for veterans and active-duty military personnel, including Marines from nearby Camp Pendleton, who might be interested in new careers as farmers. “In the military, grunts are the guys who get dirty, do the work and are generally underappreciated,” said Colin Archipley, a decorated Marine Corps infantry sergeant turned organic farmer, who developed the program with his wife, Karen, after his three tours in Iraq. “I think farmers are the same.”
Programs Throughout the Country are Working with Veterans to Help them Develop the Skills they Need to Become Successful Farmers:Veterans Sustainable Agriculture Training currently works with the Transition Assistance Program (TAP) at Camp Pendleton California to offer the Marines and Sailors of the 1st Marine Division an intensive 6 week course in sustainable agriculture while they are on active duty awaiting separation from the military. In the course, the trainees will be developing business plans, building resumes, training in hydroponics, drip/ micro irrigation, environment control, soil biology and more, as well as meeting with various industry leaders from success growing operations, USDA, Farm Bureau, SCORE, Small Business Administration, retailers and distributors, and potential investors.
ANDThe Veterans Farm in Jacksonville, FL is building handicap accessible farms for our disabled combat veterans to provide a "Prescription without Medication" through horticulture therapy. Through a 14 week fellowship program veterans will learn how to grow organic fruits and vegetables. After completion veterans will be provided with resources to go out and start their own farms, or to work for larger farming organizations.
Check out a great new film about veterans returning from the war to start a life in farming at: http://www.walkyourtalk.tv/A-Greater-Mission/