Farmer Veteran Coalition Offers Veterans New Sense of Purpose
By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director
Memorial Day is a day of solemn remembrance of those in the U.S. military who have been killed in the line of duty. We at California Ag Today have heavy hearts for the individuals and families who have suffered losses for all of us. We also want to convey appreciation for our nation’s veterans and current service members.
We also take this Memorial Day opportunity to focus on those veterans who have returned home and embraced the farming industry by reporting on the Farmer Veteran Coalition (FVC). Evan Eagan, communications specialist for the FVC
and veteran Marine Corps combat correspondent (2003 to 2007), said, “More than 100 California veterans have returned to family farms or started their own operations.”
“Typically, [veterans] reach out to us either through our website or they give us a call and we assess where they are,” in terms of farming experience. “Either they have returned to a family farm or they are looking for training to get into the business,” said Eagan. “They may also be looking for some sort of loan assistance. They are in our database and we follow up with them on whatever they are seeking—whether it be urban gardening, hydroponics, aquaponics or even large-scale crop farming. Returning veterans are engaged in farming throughout California,” he said.
FVC also provides veterans with information on crop loans, as well as other funding sources such as micro-loan agencies. “We are able to endorse loans up to about $10,000,” said Eagan.
“Additionally, we have the Farmer Veteran Fellowship Fund which opens once a year and rewards up to $5,000 per farmer veteran,” said Eagan. And that’s not a loan; it is a grant they do not have to pay back. Traditionally, we award it to veterans who already come from farm families and who have done something to establish some sort of operation. We try to give them critical items to give them a boost in the early stages of their farming endeavors.”
Egan said the returning veterans are farming a wide range of crops. “I think we are pretty well represented among the various various fruits and veggies across the agricultural industry. We have a guy up in Chico who grows kiwi, a poultry farmer and another veteran working with cattle.”
Some veterans may not have a farm to come back to, so they will need land to get started. Egan noted that new farmers find the land costs too high in California to get started, but other areas of the country, such as the South and the Midwest are more affordable.
FVC staff makes themselves available to any returning veteran seeking work in farming. We have outreach personnel standing by Monday through Friday to take calls and field emails to assist anybody who hears about us. Reaching out to veterans is one of our main focuses right now—to let more and more veterans know that these services are available to them. We’re here, ready to help them get into farming, to discover if it is something for them.”
Many veterans who get into farming report a bonus therapeutic effect. Current research studies that we’re involved with, in coordination with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, are quantifying the therapeutic effects of farming on veterans. R Reportedly, farming has helped alleviate PTSD symptoms for some veterans and gives them a sense of purpose.
“Once you’re in the military and you’ve been serving on a mission, you really get behind what you’re doing. Once you get out, many veterans lose that sense of identity and purpose. The military is such a close-knit community; you have a network of people who are in the same battle with you. Then you get out and you end up in a rural area where there are not many resources or people. Farming may fill that void and give veterans a real sense of purpose while also fulfilling a real need.”
“FVC also manages the Homegrown by Heroes Program, a crop labeling program that gives consumers a tangible way to support veterans. The Homegrown Heroes program is currently endorsed by 15 state department of agriculture and has More than 600 participants in 48 states, plus Puerto Rico. Furthermore, Homegrown by Heroes sales exceed $50 million each year.”
Farmer Veteran Coalition
Homegrown by Heroes
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs