After serving in the Military, many veterans pursue lifestyles that involve raising crops, livestock and living close to the outdoors.  They come by these agrarian affinities naturally.

Most persons who join the Military have strong motives to protect people, our country and a way of life nearly all Americans value highly.  Motives for becoming agricultural producers are similar in many ways, for most farm and ranch people want to take care of others by producing the food and fiber humans need, as well as to protect their land and resources for future generations and an esteemed agrarian way of life.  

These commonalities among people in the militia and agriculture offer an explanation for why 44% of the men and women who currently serve in any branch of the U.S. Military originate from rural areas and why persons who grow up on a farm enlist in the Military at a disproportionately high rate when only 17% of Americans are rural residents and 2.5% are farm residents.

Retiring militia search for ways to continue leading meaningful lives.  Securing the land, equipment and livestock to farm, which has been termed the Agrarian Imperative, has similarities to defending a country and way of life from aggressors, which ethologist Robert Ardrey called the Territorial Imperative.  

A lifestyle close to nature usually feels safer than other environments for many veterans who are dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder and other service-related problems.  They typically shun crowds, unexpected noises and reminders of the circumstances that caused their injuries; many uninjured veterans like the outdoors too.

The satisfaction of working with soil, livestock and the outdoors has healing effects on people in a lot of ways.  It’s difficult, however, to initiate agricultural operations unless there are welcoming family members already involved in agriculture and other supports that can assist veterans to get started.  

There are several ways help be found for retired Militia to pursue careers in agriculture-related endeavors.

The Farmer Veteran Coalition (www.farmvetco.org) serves military veterans of all eras and branches interested in the agriculture industry.  Although only a few years old, the nonprofit organization has launched programs to promote agricultural opportunities for all veterans in every state.  

The first National Farmer Veteran Stakeholders Conference, sponsored by the Farmer Veteran Coalition and its Iowa chapter, will be held on November 14-15 this year in Des Moines.  

The Drake University Agricultural Law Center is helping to host the forum.  Contact iowafarmerveteran.org/farmer-veteran-national-stakeholder for additional information and to register for the conference.

The guides for beginning farmers being developed by the American Farm Bureau, which is working with several state partners and the Farmer Veteran Coalition, are another resource.   County and state Farm Bureau offices may have additional information about locally available programs.

Several state organic farming organizations offer assistance for veterans to begin sustainable farming activities and operations.  These can be found through online searches that include the name of the state in which one is interested, along with the words organic farming and military veterans.  

The 2014 Farm Bill has expanded benefits for military veterans.  The benefits include supports for agricultural education, as well as preferences that are given to veterans for loans and farm transition incentives when they participate in USDA conservation reserve programs (CRP) and convert CRP land into farming operations.

Veterans interested in these benefits may check with their local USDA Farm Service Agency offices for information; the Drake University Agricultural Law Center (call 515 271-4956) and the Farmer Veteran Coalition also have this information.

Accessing medical and behavioral healthcare.  Almost everyone knows veterans who reside in rural areas usually have worse problems accessing medical and behavioral health assistance than veterans who live in urban areas.  The Veterans Affairs (VA) is trying to ease this problem.

Federal guidelines are being adapted to allow rural veterans who live more than a 60 minute drive from a VA clinic or hospital, or who will have to wait more than 30 days for a VA-approved appointment, to seek care from a licensed local provider who may be reimbursed through the ARCH (Access Received Closer to Home) program.  

Requirements for specialized and tertiary healthcare are more rigorous.  Sometimes outpatient medical and behavioral health services for veterans can be arranged at their homes if telemedicine is available in the geographic area.  Reimbursement for transportation costs also has been improved.  

Possible claimants may contact their local VA office for additional explanations of these guidelines and other benefits.  Approaching a VA office is not as formidable as it might seem.  

Local and regional VA offices are usually listed in telephone directories and the offices often are staffed by veterans.  

Acutely distressed veterans can call the Veterans Crisis Hotline (call 800-273-8255) at any time for assistance of any sort, including discussion of potential self-harm.  

Rural and farm residents, and all Americans, salute military veterans on Veterans Day, which is celebrated on Tuesday, November 11 this year.

Michael Rosmann is a Harlan, Iowa clinical psychologist (and fly-fisherman) who lives on the farm he shares with his wife.  Contact him at: www.agbehavioralhealth.com.