Support Farmer Veterans
There are a lot of similarities between farming and being in the military, says farmer and veteran Paul Kanning. “After the military, I thought about opening a sporting good store and about all the things I’d have to do. Then, I realized that being in a rural community and out in agriculture, I get to be around people with the same values as the military – people who are trustworthy and reliable. It’s a place where I can count on my neighbor for help anytime I need it.”
Kanning is one of many veterans who returned home to farm. The path from soldier to farmer is different for every veteran, but they all face more obstacles when they come home, including obtaining financing, purchasing land, learning new farming practices, and becoming the farm manager.
“The single hardest thing was getting my head around the funding required, because it’s not cheap to get into farming,” says Jamie Critelli, a New York farmer and veteran. “I had always assumed that coming out of the Army would mean something; that I’d have an easier time obtaining financing. It still took a lot of persistence.”
Critelli was a captain in the Army Reserve for eight years and served in Korea, Germany, Kosovo, and Iraq. In 2010, he opened Floral Beauty Greenhouses, a wholesale greenhouse operation.
After serving in the Air Force for 20 years, Kanning returned to his family farm, where he faced his own set of challenges.
Kanning’s father passed away eight years before he retired from the Air Force. Without a transition period to learn about managing the farm, Kanning looked for outside assistance. “A lot of the farming practices had changed in the years since I left the farm,” explains Kanning.
“No-till farming and pulse crops are really big in this area now. As a kid, I was just a laborer, so I wasn’t involved in farm management. I had a lot of learning to do and was looking for resources when I found the Farmer Veteran Coalition.”
The Farmer Veteran Coalition (FVC) was created to help farmer veterans find the resources they need to become successful farmers.
“It’s a pretty cool concept,” says Kanning. “Let’s link up a bunch of veterans in agriculture and use their resources to help other people come into farming.”
More than a label
Homegrown By Heroes is one of the newest programs offered by the FVC. Through the program, veterans can put the Homegrown By Heroes label on their products to show they were grown by a farmer-veteran.
Originally created in Kentucky by the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, the FVC is now administering the Homegrown By Heroes program nationwide due to funding by Farm Credit.
“From the beginning of the Homegrown By Heroes program, we hoped it would grow to a national scale so it could benefit veterans from every state,” says James Comer, Kentucky agricultural commissioner. “Now, that hope has become a reality with the help of the FVC and our other generous partners. With this initiative, we can give something back to those who have given so much in defense of our country.”