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Military Experience Opens Door for Soldier to Return to the Farm

Graduating from high school in the small town of Blakely, Georgia, Tracy Robinson was required to take an armed forces aptitude test. When asked what he wanted to do with his life, Robinson said he wanted to farm. The Marine recruiter told him he would be a great field artilleryman.

“I heard the word field and thought it had something to do with farming,” said Robinson. He enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps and after finding out field artillery had nothing to do with farming he stayed and fought for his country for 24 years, serving in Desert Shield, Afghanistan and Iraq.

A Commitment We Must Keep

When Ivory Smith of Poplarville, Mississippi separated from the Army after ten years of service – including tours in Iraq and Afghanistan – he attended a USDA-sponsored workshop held through our partner, the National Center for Appropriate Technology. At this 'Armed to Farm' workshop for returning Veterans, he learned about small-scale sustainable agricultural practices, and from there developed his microgreens company, SmithPonics, that now supplies fresh salad microgreens to restaurants in his area.

Many of our Veterans, old and young alike, are dealing with the physical and mental scars of combat. USDA Rural Development has been able to provide real support to those Veterans who need care when they return from service – Veterans like Leon Kauzlarich from rural Appanoose County, Iowa. Leon got help to repair his home, and make it accessible to help with his mobility issues.

Secretary's Column: In Rural America, Promise and Opportunity Abound for Veterans

Veterans have sacrificed dearly to keep this country safe. Every day, they confront and triumph over those that threaten our national security. We owe it to our military men and women to ensure a different kind of security is waiting when they return home—the security that comes from the promise of a good job, affordable housing, a quality education and dependable health care.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture stands proudly alongside those who have served. Our staff across America includes more than 11,000 veterans – and our team works hard every day to strengthen services and programs in rural areas that support veterans and their families as they achieve their dreams. This includes everything from health clinics and telemedicine services, to distance learning and training opportunities for those who want to start a farm or ranch to grants and loans to help veterans start or expand a rural business.

Armed to Farm: Bridging Veterans to Agriculture

"I'm used to hard work; I served in the Infantry - but agriculture is a different kind of hard work." That's what Ivory Smith, founder of SmithPonics in Poplarville, Miss, had to say about opening his own business selling microgreens.

Ivory was one of many veterans who participated in a recent 'Armed to Farm' workshop in Jackson, Mississippi. Sponsored by the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service (also known as ATTRA), and funded in part through USDA Rural Development, the workshop gave veterans a chance to learn about sustainable small-scale farming practices and visit working agribusinesses to learn from them first-hand.

NRCS Ag Adviser Recognized for Outstanding Service in Afghanistan

An assistant state conservationist with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service recently received a top honor for his service overseas in Afghanistan, where he served as an agricultural adviser for two different tours.

Darren Richardson, who works for NRCS in Lubbock County, Texas, was among 72 people recognized by USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service in late May. Richardson received the Tom Stefani Distinguished International Service Award for brave accomplishments in the face of danger.

Richardson served as a senior adviser to the U.S. Consulate in Herat, Afghanistan. Richardson served two tours, from 2009 to 2010 as a technical advisor for the military unit, and in 2013 as a senior agricultural advisor in western Afghanistan, supervising USDA field advisers in the western region.

Natural Resources Conservation Service Salutes Staff for Service to Country & Conservation

Earlier this month the United States observed Veteran’s Day.  USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) proudly supports veterans and celebrates their service to country and conservation.

“We’re honored that so many veterans have chosen to come work for NRCS,” Chief Jason Weller said. “Their dedication, commitment and discipline are invaluable assets to our conservation mission.”

Kevin Shuey, NRCS contract specialist in North Carolina, is an Air Force veteran. He spent his last four years in the service teaching leadership skills to other airmen.

After September 11th, A U.S. Forester in Afghanistan

On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, sitting in a small Cessna about to go airborne, the pilot suddenly slowed the plane and aborted the takeoff. He said he had received orders that all flights had been grounded and that any airplanes that did not comply would be shot down by the Air Force.

The United States was under attack.

At the time, my job had been with the Arkansas Forest Inventory and Analysis survey program monitoring plots on the Mississippi Delta. I spent the rest of that day tracking my crews working in the field, and like the rest of the world, tried to comprehend the events as they unfolded.

Secretary Vilsack Honors USDA Employees for Service in Iraq and Afghanistan

Since 2003, more than 200 U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) employees have sacrificed months - sometimes years - away from loved ones to live and work in war zones, voluntarily lending their skills and knowledge toward the betterment of people halfway around the world.

On Monday, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack honored nearly 70 of these men and women, all of whom have returned from serving as agricultural experts in Iraq or Afghanistan in the past year. These employees hail from across the United States and represent several different USDA offices and agencies. In their roles as agricultural advisors, they have worked side-by-side with everyone from top officials with Iraq and Afghanistan’s ministries of agriculture to the U.S. military, from farmers, ranchers and students to widows and children.