Thousands of veterans leave the military every year, but there’s a new “service” they can provide. Over the next few decades, the world will need to increase its food production to keep up with a growing population. Career options available to American vets in the agriculture sector include owning/operating your own farm, or working in one of the many areas that supports the nation’s rural fabric.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) assists beginning farmers and ranchers, including veterans, in several ways. These include microloans, operating loans and other loan programs that help in buying or leasing farm land. Recently, USDA partnered with SCORE to provide mentorship to veterans and other beginning farmers who need business or other guidance as they prepare for their new careers.
“Its endless possibilities where you could go as a career in agricultural farming and you just feel responsible to present good product to consumers and feel compelled to take care of the land,” said Lenny Miles Jr., Navy veteran and farmer in Chestertown, Maryland. Miles helps his father and grandfather run the family farm. Although Miles returned to an established farm, it is possible to start from scratch.
Tom and Anita Roberson both served in the Army a combined 34 years and started Botanical Bites and Provisions in Fredericksburg. They didn’t come from a farm background. Both worked in the medical field in the Army. After retiring, Tom worked in his private practice for several years before attending farming classes with his wife. Their son, Julian, helped with a business plan and Anita stressed having a business plan is extremely important. “If you want to get into farming, the only excuse that you have is yourself because the resources are there” said Anita. “USDA has plenty of resources.”
Not long after the Roberson’s finished school, they were operating their own farm growing and selling tomatoes, watermelons, squash, blueberries, other produce and also raising bees for honey.
These veterans heard the calling to enter farming. You can, too. To learn more about the USDA’s programs to help you get started or if you have questions, visit https://www.usda.gov/veterans.