About 44% of those who serve in America’s armed forces come from rural communities, an impressive number when you consider that only about 20% of our country’s population lives in rural America.
Rural Americans enlist in large numbers for many reasons, but I believe they all share a devotion to service. For some who want to continue serving their fellow Americans after they complete military service, feeding our nation, farming and ranching, is a great career choice. Farm Bureau is ready and able to help them.
Through the Farm Bureau Patriot Project, Farm Bureau members are mentoring military veterans who want to get started in agriculture. The program was piloted in Arkansas and Texas in 2016 and is available as a program option to all state Farm Bureaus.
In addition to sharing a call to service, farmers and soldiers also share a strong work ethic, problem solving skills and determination to work through difficulties, persevere and get the job done. Those skills are critical on the battlefield and in the farm field.
Just as anyone entering the military has a lot to learn, veterans who are getting started in agriculture can benefit from the mentorship of experienced farmers and ranchers. As one Patriot Project participant, Damon Helton of Arkansas, said, you have to learn about things like input costs, margins and managing employees, in addition to raising crops and animals.
These mentorships, together with financial and risk management support in the most recent farm bill, and the resources available from the Farmer Veteran Coalition, which Farm Bureau is proud to support, help veterans make the transition from military professional to agricultural professional.
Thank you to the Farm Bureau organizations that helped us deploy the Patriot Project. It is our hope that we can continue to help and develop these new farmers and ranchers as they are needed to feed our nation and world.
Vincent “Zippy” Duvall, a poultry, cattle and hay producer from Greene County, Georgia, is the 12th president of the American Farm Bureau Federation.