By Wyatt Fraas
The Center for Rural Affairs has worked to support and assist beginning farmers and ranchers for over 25 years. And increasingly, beginning farmer and rancher inquiries come from military veterans. They have the same needs as other new farmers: access to land, financing and information. But they also bring new issues: disabilities, returning to civilian life, a drive to help fellow veterans, a powerful sense of wanting to be of service to their country.
The Center’s Veteran Farmers Project was launched to provide information, encouragement, connections and referrals that help beginning farmers and ranchers access land and financing, identify markets, build business plans and more.
We also connect veteran-farmers with other veterans to help retain and rebuild bonds with others who have served in the military and help each other overcome the obstacles of building a farm business and returning to civilian life. We refer veteran-farmers to resource providers who can help with disability services, business advising, finding mentors, gaining production and marketing experience and other needs.
Farming fits veterans, and veterans fit farming. Many veterans want to return to small town America to raise their families. And we welcome them home.
However, educational opportunities, off-farm jobs, health services and young peers are in short supply across much of rural and small town America. That makes networks such as those built through the Center’s Veteran Farmers Project, and the infrastructure and public policies we are working to create, vitally important to our veterans who want to farm and ranch.