Army Vet Finds Purpose in Farmer Veteran Coalition

Organization Uses Ag to Help Veterans

By Joanne Lui, Associate Editor

California Ag Today is proud to announce a partnership in support of Farmer Veteran Coalition by featuring stories about their members on a monthly basis. This is the first story in a series that will carry over into the next year.


Agriculture is important in countless ways. In the broadest sense, California’s agricultural industry feeds the world and provides many jobs. But on a smaller level, farming can change one life at a time, whether it’s educating a child or giving purpose to a veteran. That’s what Randy Ryan discovered since he retired from military service with the U.S. Army’s XVIII Airborne Corps. 

“I volunteered to help some kids grow some food. They said, ‘Man, you’re really good with these kids.’ That started me on the path to teaching kids in the Southern

tgn Randy Ryan, Farmer Veteran Coalition
Randy Ryan (center) said, “There’s nothing that gives you purpose like serving. And I can’t think of a better way for veterans to serve than to grow food.”

California area about growing food,” Ryan said.

Ryan, who grew up on a farm in Tennessee, began working with Teaching Gardens, a program funded by the American Heart Association that fights childhood obesity by teaching kids how to plant seeds, nurture growing plants, harvest produce and understand the value of good eating habits.

“I used to go into classrooms and say, ‘Let’s try some broccoli. Let’s try some kale.’ They were like, ‘Ew,’” Ryan recalled. “But if they grow it, they are going to desire it. And if they desire it, they are going to buy it locally.”

While working with Teaching Gardens, Ryan also connected with the Farmer Veteran Coalition. The non-profit organization’s mission is to “cultivate a new generation of farmers and food leaders and develop viable employment and meaningful careers through the collaboration of the farming and military communities.” The Coalition believes “agriculture offers veterans purpose, opportunity, and physical and psychological benefits.”

Now, Ryan has become the manager of a new California initiative with the Farmer Veteran Coalition. “We’re going to focus on the state of California and get more veterans involved” Ryan said. The Coalition aims to reach more veterans with information on how to get involved and to encourage more farmers to provide internships to veterans.

Ryan recognizes it can be hard to ask a farmer to train a veteran because they do not necessarily have the time or resources. That’s why Ryan is focused on getting fellowships and grants. Already, many partners have come aboard, including Newman’s Own and the Bob Woodruff Foundation.

farmer_veteran_coalition_logo“There are also a lot of opportunities in the industry other than starting your own farm,” Ryan pointed out. He encourages veterans to consider opportunities in farm management, vineyard management and food safety, among other jobs. “The skills from being a veteran and those from being in the food and agriculture industry—they are so similar to me,” he said.

Ultimately, Farmer Veteran Coalition aims to give returning veterans a purpose after serving their country in the military. “Veterans come home with a feeling of needing to serve,” Ryan said. “Veterans want to serve. There is nothing that gives you purpose like serving. And I cannot think of a better way for veterans to serve than to grow food.”

Click on the link to learn more how you can support Farmer Veteran Coalition.

Veterans and Youth Projects Announced as part of Veterans Day Observance

By: Monique Bienvenue; Cal Ag Today Social Media Manager/Reporter

Today, as part of the observance of Veterans Day, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) announced the partners and projects that will be funded in this fiscal year to provide job and training opportunities to veterans and youth.

“Our continuing work to support the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps  (21CSC) is not only in concert with the Obama Administration’s goal of reconnecting Americans to the outdoors, it also furthers crucial projects that improve forest health, watershed restoration and recreational opportunities,” said Secretary Tom Vilsack. “This landmark partnership with AmeriCorps to jointly support service opportunities for youth and veterans is an all-around win for our young people and our public lands.”Screen Shot 2014-11-10 at 10.12.02 PM

“This is a great example of an innovative partnership that expands economic opportunity for young people, taps the leadership skills of veterans, improves our national forests, and puts a new generation on a lifelong path of service,” said Wendy Spencer, chief executive officer for CNCS. “Young people and veterans bring extraordinary skill and passion to conservation service, and we are thrilled to join with USDA to expand service opportunities that strengthen our environment and build economic opportunity for those who serve.”

The projects will create opportunities for 300 youth and veterans who will serve through AmeriCorps and as part of the 21CSC, working to restore and conserve natural and historic resources on National Forests and Grasslands in more than 10 states. The $3.7 million in joint funding for this effort was announced earlier this year.

USDA partnered with CNCS to identify and jointly fund high-quality projects. In addition, funding was allocated to partner organizations whose work helps accomplish key Forest Service priorities, including hazardous fuels management, watershed protection, trail maintenance, and recreation and facilities management. The new partnership also reflects the spirit of the Presidential Task Force on Expanding National Service, which is charged with addressing national challenges by expanding national service opportunities through interagency and public-private partnerships.

The Corporation for National and Community Service is a federal agency that engages more than five million Americans in service through AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, Social Innovation Fund, and other programs, and leads President’s national call to service initiative, United We Serve. For more information, visit  NationalService.gov.