As another Veterans Day is upon us, UC Food Observer would like to salute all of our veterans – and all veteran farmers in the United States.

It’s no secret that returning veterans face many challenges transitioning back to civilian life. Many veterans suffer from PTSD; they also have higher rates of divorce, depression and suicide than the general public. And they’re more likely to be unemployed. Many are from rural areas of the nation.

On the other hand, the average age of farmers in the United States is 58.  The nation needs more young and determined food producers, and in recent years, an increasing number of veterans have expressed willingness to start farming, as we explain in this article.

Farmer Veteran Speaks Out

As farmer veteran Joe Oliveira explains to us, it makes a lot of sense. Soldiers and farmers share several similarities. He told us:

“In some ways, soldiers are trained to be farmers. It seems weird, but we are. Farming is a lot of mission-oriented work. There are tasks to be done at a certain time, and they need to be done in a certain way. Pruning needs to be done now. Adding amendments to soil has to be done in a certain way and at a certain time. That’s the way we were taught in the military.”

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National Nonprofit Helps Veteran Farmers

Photo from Farmers Veterans Coalition.
Photo from Farmers Veterans Coalition.

Several nonprofit organizations, including the Farmer Veteran Coalition and universities have launched programs to facilitate the entry of veterans into agricultural enterprises.

These programs not only include educational opportunities, but also link to apprenticeships and other job opportunities.

Learn more about the national, non-profit Farmer Veteran Coalition based in Davis, California from Executive Director Michael O’Gorman, who told us:

 “Soldiers put aside differences in politics, religion, social class and race, and then they all fight together. Unfortunately, there is a lot of division in our nation over how food is raised, and that makes a sad division in our support for farmers.”

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Long History of Helping Veteran Farmers

#201, Prize watermelons from Durham Fair, August, 1920. Contributing Institution: UC Berkeley, Bancroft Library.
#201, Prize watermelons from Durham Fair, August, 1920. Contributing Institution: UC Berkeley, Bancroft Library.

If you think connecting veterans to farming is something new, you’d be mistaken. In fact, it dates back to the pre-Revolutionary War era, when veterans of the French and Indian Wars received land grants for their military service.

Later, after World War I, it was popular to encourage veterans to farm or ranch for several reasons:

“And don’t forget…it’s one of the ways to kill bolshevism!”

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Helpful Veteran Farmer Resources

Today, these 21 organizations provide valuable information and resources to veteran farmers across the globe, from Cambodia to Texas.

The list was compiled by Food Tank, which invites you to let them know if they’ve overlooked any organizations. Check it out.

Then, go salute a veteran and a farmer today.

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