Veterans account for 11% of U.S. Agriculture Producers.
Natalie Willis, Reporter, Valley Ag Voice
Ahead of Independence Day, Tractor Supply donated $100,000 to the Farmers Veteran Coalition to provide funding for past service members in their early agricultural careers. The Farmer Veteran Coalition began in 2008 under the leadership of California farmer Michael O’Gorman.
In his blog, O’Gorman explained his desire to set a foundation for future first-generation farmers like himself. His children inspired his decision to work with veterans—his daughter was at Ground Zero during 9/11, and his son joined the military weeks later.
“Walking away from farming at the zenith of my career and stepping into doing something that was almost non-existent at the time—helping the men and women coming home from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to become farmers—was not without some trepidation,” O’Gorman wrote.
Almost 15 years since FVC began, more than 30,000 veterans have joined the network, shifting from heroes on the battlefield to producers in the fields. Two active programs—Farmer Veteran Fellowship Fund and Homegrown by Heroes—provide veterans with financial aid, resources, training, and specialty “Homegrown by Heroes” packing labels throughout the startup years of their agricultural operations.
Eleven percent of the nation’s agriculture producers served in the military, and 17% of all farms have a producer who has served or is serving in the U.S. Armed Forces., according to the USDA’s 2017 Census of Agriculture. These farms—with $22 billion in crop sales and $19 billion in livestock sales—accounted for 11% of all U.S. agricultural sales.
TRACTOR SUPPLY RECIPIENTS
Tractor Supply Co. has partnered with FVC for five years, assisting over 300 veteran farmers through the grant program. This year’s recipients span across the U.S. and include service members from the Army and Navy, all with distinct goals for their agriculture operations.
Colin Dunlap, an Army officer and first-generation beef rancher at Silver Bell Ranch in Texas, plans to engage the community in agriculture education, implement a three-pasture multi-species grazing system, and begin offering artificial insemination services. Fellow Army veteran Tim Zamora shares Dunlap’s goal of agricultural education outreach
, and plans to develop Zamora Farms in New Mexico into a veteran-friendly business that sources all necessary resources from the U.S.
Navy veteran Flint Raben plans to rehabilitate 7,500 feet of pasture fencing at Raben Ranch in Montana. Raben also intends to upgrade his drip irrigation system and build a High-Tunnel in the market garden.
Lastly, Army veteran Tona Trice of Hops Meadow Farm in West Virginia, will direct funding toward a stable base of breweries that will produce seasonal beers. Trice expressed a desire to reduce farm expenses through an agritourism sector in the brewery as well as implementing a sustainable beef and pork business.
FVC 2023 CONFERENCE
Every year, the Farmer Veteran Coalition hosts a national gathering of military and agriculture communities to provide networking opportunities, education, and farm tours in conjunction with the National Ag Marketing Summit.
This year’s conference will be held in Washington, D.C., from Nov. 12-14. According to O’Gorman, the conference is meant to foster camaraderie and connection among veteran farmers, providing necessary support to the community at large.
“For veterans living and farming in our most rural communities, getting to meet other farmer veterans leads to lasting bonds of support, friendship and opportunities to learn from each other,” O’Gorman wrote.