Iraq and Afghanistan War Veterans Turn To Farming
Nearly half of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans hail from rural America, and many now want to farm or ranch. Over the last year the Center for Rural Affairs conducted a series of workshops, farm tours and web broadcasts for Armed Service veterans that provided face-to-face interactions between veterans and resource providers, conversations with farmers and ranchers, and information on strategies to get started in farming or ranching.
We also engaged state AgrAbility projects that provide technical advice to disabled farmers. Many participants who had experienced some form of disability welcomed encouragement that a farm or ranch dream could be realized despite physical or emotional challenges. Veterans with limited resources wanted to know about starting small with high value crops and livestock, and direct marketing.
Most veterans preferred attending sessions alongside other veterans that understand and support them because of shared experiences. They valued the opinions of other veterans over agencies and academics, especially veterans who had experienced the process of farm or ranch startup. Our virtual farm tour with former Marine turned rancher Garrett Dwyer became an example of the intense interest his success generated among other veterans.
We look forward to continuing this work with our partners at Kansas Farmers Union, Farmer Veteran Coalition, University Extension, USDA’s Risk Management Agency (which generously funded this project), and the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture – a pioneer in helping veterans transition to a career in farming or ranching with their Combat Boot to Cowboy Boots curriculum.
By Wyatt Fraas email@example.com Center for Rural Affairs