DoD/USDA Team Up To Help Vets Start Farms, Ranches

By Katie Lange
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

Lots of veterans are looking for structure, purpose and a sense of community when they leave the military, and more and more are turning to farming to find it.

The American flag is displayed on Bigg Riggs Farm, owned by U.S. Marine Corps veteran Calvin Riggleman in Hampshire County, West Virginia. Riggleman served in Iraq and serves his community with farm-fresh organic produce and other products. USDA Photo by Lance Cheung

The American flag is displayed on Bigg Riggs Farm, owned by U.S. Marine Corps veteran Calvin Riggleman in Hampshire County, West Virginia. Riggleman served in Iraq and serves his community with farm-fresh organic produce and other products. USDA Photo by Lance Cheung

About 5 million veterans live in rural areas of the U.S. – a higher concentration than any other part of the country – so it makes sense that a viable career path after the military is to work in agriculture in some way.

But what if you’re not an experienced farmhand, or you don’t know how to start such a business?

Well, you’re in luck. The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Defense are teaming up to expand the reach of the DoD’s¬†Transition Assistance Program, which sees about 200,000 veterans a year and offers career training tools and incentives needed to start a farm or ranch.

“Rural America disproportionately sends its sons and daughters to serve in the military,” Agriculture Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden said. “When service members return home, we want them to know that rural America has a place for them, no matter where they’re from.”

According to the USDA, lots of veterans have shown interest in agriculture, thinking that farm-related work can be a holistic way to ease back into civilian life. It’s also a way to put their logistical training to work, renew their sense of purpose, continue serving the community and even be their own bosses if they want to.

More: Hear Stories from Veteran Farmers

“Our transitioning service members leave the military with a variety of essential skills, including leadership and discipline that could be directly applied to a career in agriculture,” said Dr. Susan S. Kelly, Director of the DoD’s Transition to Veterans Program Office.

Getting Started

For anyone considering farming as a post-service career, the USDA’s website provides information on how to get started. ¬†One of the best ways to do so is by contacting your local USDA Service Center.

U.S. Marine Corps veteran Calvin Riggleman holds an oregano seedling and soil on Bigg Riggs farm in Hampshire County, West Virginia. USDA photo by Lance Cheung

U.S. Marine Corps veteran Calvin Riggleman holds an oregano seedling and soil on Bigg Riggs farm in Hampshire County, West Virginia. USDA photo by Lance Cheung

The DoD/USDA collaboration will make sure new farmers get the funding, training and technical assistance they need.

With the help of the Agricultural Act of 2014, veterans can get access to capital through the beginning farmer loan program, conservation programs, farm ownership loans or microloans, which are smaller loans for small or niche farms, like those that raise alpacas or make maple syrup.

In the past six years, the USDA has given $438 million in farm loans that have helped more than 6,480 veterans buy farmland and equipment, as well as make repairs and upgrades. The microloan program has given more than $22.6 million in support to more than 1,000 veterans.

There’s also the Homegrown by Heroes program through the Farmer Veteran Coalition, which is supported by the USDA. It celebrates local products that have been grown, raised or produced by farming U.S. veterans. The program, which started nationwide about two years ago, has since expanded to include more than 250 members in 43 states.

Whether you came from the country or just want to end up there after your military career is over, these options are definitely something to look into!

Follow the Department of Defense on Facebook and Twitter!

———-

Disclaimer: The appearance of hyperlinks does not constitute endorsement by the Department of Defense of this website or the information, products or services contained therein. For other than authorized activities such as military exchanges and Morale, Welfare and Recreation sites, the Department of Defense does not exercise any editorial control over the information you may find at these locations. Such links are provided consistent with the stated purpose of this DOD website.

This entry was posted in Community Partnerships, DoD News, Education, Military Families, Military Transition, Rotator and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.