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Regional Resources for Farmer Veterans

“I have not had the kind of trauma, stresses, or the experiences many of our veterans have had,” says Krysta Harden at the first Farmer Veteran Coalition (FVC) Conference. Harden, the USDA deputy secretary, grew up on a farm in Georgia before politics took her to Washington, D.C. “But I have kind of a hectic life in Washington, and I know when I’ve been there long enough, and it’s time to go home to get on that land.

“I know how the land heals,” she adds. This sentiment that Harden shared in her keynote speech was one that was reiterated throughout the recent FVC Conference in Des Moines, Iowa. Farmer veterans who found farming to be therapeutic were inspired to share their experience with other veterans.

A hand up

One such veteran is James McCormick. In 2009, after spending 26 months in combat, McCormick returned home to his family in West Virginia. “I was looking to find my inner peace because I was experiencing some problems with PTSD,” he says. “So I started a farm called Raising Cane Farms.” McCormick realized that the farm, which grows bamboo and sorghum, could be a way to help veterans by offering them a place to work and relax with a team of other veterans. “I received a grant to help the farm grow to something bigger than just being about me,” says McCormick.

From 2009 to 2012, the 35-acre farm worked with more than 1,000 people. McCormick realized the potential that the program had to help more veterans, so he worked with Walt Helmick, the West Virginia Commissioner of Agriculture, to pass a bill and start Warriors and Veterans to Agriculture.

The group’s goal is to work with veterans and teach them about agricultural practices, connect them with resources to get started, and teach them how to better market farm products. Warriors and Veterans to Agriculture has equipment that veterans may use, and the group has worked with the state and identified 10,000 acres of land that will be made available to veterans. 

“We train, equip, and empower,” says McCormick. “There are no handouts. This is a hand up.”

State organizations

McCormick isn’t alone in his mission to connect veterans in his state to agricultural pursuits. Veterans in California, Washington, and Kentucky have also started organizations, including:

  • Archi’s Acres, California, is a farming enterprise that uses hydroponic technology to grow organic produce. The group provides jobs to veterans and training through the Veterans Sustainable Training program.
  • Growing Veterans, Washington, works to fight veteran isolation, which may cause unemployment, homelessness, suicide, or depression, by providing a place where veterans can work together. Veterans can work on the Growing Veterans farm or the organization will find a regional farm where they can learn about sustainable agriculture.
  • Growing Warriors, Kentucky, trains military veterans on how to produce organically grown produce for their families and communities.

Farmer Veteran Coalition chapters

If you don’t have a regional program in your state, you may have a FVC chapter. “We are developing a series of state chapters around the country that will add greatly to the number of programs we do,” says Michael O’Gorman, founder and director FVC. “They will give us the ability to get in closer contact with veterans in the communities in which they live.”

The mission of the FVC is to mobilize veterans to feed America, which they do by connecting veterans with the necessary resources to get started in agriculture. The FVC has chapters in Iowa and Maine and is currently working with Vermont, Connecticut, Nebraska, Kansas, and Wisconsin to finalize new chapters.

O’Gorman recommends joining the national organization and they will refer you to the appropriate state chapter or group.

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