Veterans Day is November 11, but the federal holiday is celebrated on Monday, November 12, this year. According to a 2011White House Report, Jobs and Economic Security for Rural America, 44% of men and women who serve in the U.S. Military are residents of rural areas of the country, even though rural residents overall account for 17% of the population. About 6.1 million veterans currently live in rural communities.
The unemployment rate of rural veterans historically has been higher than for the general population. A number of federal and nonprofit organization programs aim to help veterans with employment and adjustment issues.
Purdue University is offering a two-day workshop, called Veterans and Agriculture: Opportunities for Employment, Entrepreneurship, and Enrichment, on November 7-8, 2012 at the Beck Agricultural Center in West Lafayette, Indiana.
On Day 1 the participants receive intensive instruction on such topics as funding agricultural operations, marketing and agritourism, working with the VA and state Vocational Rehabilitation, traumatic brain injury and PTSD, assistive technology for farmers with disabilities and more.
On Day 2 the participants receive hands-on experience at Purdue farms in sessions such as livestock management, aquaculture and agronomy basics, plus tours of local sustainable farms and livestock facilities.
For additional information, email [email protected] or call 1-800-825-4264. Registration fees are waived for veterans who are not representatives of organizations.
Veterans may call to inquire about the availability of travel stipends.
There are many Beginning Farmer Programs for Military Veterans listed on the internet that offer a variety of benefits and trainings in agriculture for veterans.
For example, a veteran can obtain a VA loan to purchase a farm if the veteran intends to live in a home on the farm and can show how the farm will turn a profit.
The Farmers Home Administration shows preference to veterans when financing farm operations.
The Farmer Veteran Coalition (www.farmvetco.org), a nonprofit organization, has as its mission: To mobilize veterans to feed America. The organization frequently hosts events such as conferences and offers other forms of help to veterans to enter the agricultural business and to improve their overall well-being.
The Farmer Veteran Coalition newsletter reports that the Senate version of the Farm Bill, which has not yet passed in the House, establishes a Veterans Agricultural Liaison to help connect veterans with beginning farmer training and/or agricultural vocational and rehabilitation programs.
The Senate bill amends the Outreach and Assistance Program for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers, known as Section 2501, to include veteran farmers and ranchers. It also amends the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) to give the same increased cost share to veterans as other socially disadvantaged groups.
The Senate version of the Farm Bill also sets aside a percentage of funding in the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program for groups to help veterans transition into agriculture.
Many veterans who are no longer actively connected with the Military have a natural affinity for living in rural areas and working in agriculture, according to Michael O’Gorman of the Farmer Veteran Coalition. Molly Theobold, research associate with the Worldwatch Institute and former Labor 2008 Pennsylvania State Communications Director for the National AFL-CIO, writes a blog that agrees.
Not only do veterans originate in disproportionate numbers from rural sections of the country, but they, and others who grew up in nonrural areas, seek a peaceful lifestyle in rural communities and fulfillment in agricultural endeavors when they leave active duty.
Many veterans who are dealing with post traumatic stress disorder, and a great many other veterans who are making transitions back into civilian life, like the open spaces of the countryside and the serenity associated with nature. They feel solace in the outdoors. They find useful purpose and healing in agricultural activities.
Veterans often gravitate toward occupations that involve caring for others. Producing the food and fiber that are essential for life are occupations that satisfy the desire to assist others.
Persons interested in learning more about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder can find previous columns about PTSD and Healing PTSD that were published on June 16 and June 23 this year on the website of the newspaper where you routinely read the Farm and Ranch Life column. Or you can order reprints from the website: www.agbehavioralhealth.com.
Like the readers of this Farm and Ranch Life column, I am grateful to all veterans for the sacrifices they made to protect our country and our way of life. As I write this, I am thinking particularly of Owen, who just returned from Afghanistan and is healing from shrapnel wounds to his stomach. He, his family and mine are good friends forever.
By Mike Rosmann, Ph.D.