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From the Field: Farmer Veteran Stakeholders Conference

From the Field: Farmer Veteran Stakeholders Conference

Farm Credit is a proud supporter of the Farmer Veteran Coalition through the National Contributions Program, sponsoring events and programs throughout the year, including the Farmer Veteran Stakeholders Conference and the Homegrown By Heroes labeling program.

An historic announcement from the Deputy Secretary of Agriculture, a ground-breaking discussion between five departments of the Federal Government and a palpable enthusiasm among the 200 people in attendance marked the first National Farmer Veteran Stakeholders Conference, hosted last month in Des Moines, Iowa by the Farmer Veteran Coalition (FVC) and the Agricultural Law Center of Drake University.

“In my sixty-two years, it was the most powerful congregation I have been part of,” said James Brady, Air Force veteran and Board member of Louisiana Association of Cooperatives. The sentiment was echoed by many as speakers gave first-hand accounts of the healing, sense of purpose and career opportunities that returning veterans find on America’s farms.

During her keynote address, Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden named fellow conference attendee Karis Gutter the first Military Veteran Agricultural Liaison at the USDA.

Many of America's veterans come from our rural communities, and are often drawn back to the land upon returning to civilian life, said Deputy Secretary Harden. Veterans are key to building our future generation of farmers, land stewards and conservationists.”

The USDA Military Veteran Agriculture Liaison, which reports directly to the Office of the Secretary, is a new position created by the 2014 Farm Bill.

In addition, a panel of successful farmer veterans all touted their military experience as key to their ability to handle the rigor of a farming career. “In the military you are used to dealing with large, impossible situations where you need to think quick and be decisive, all great things that you need in farming,” said Paul Zimmerman, Army veteran and fifth generation farmer.

Mickey Clayton (Army) described how her Navajo-Churro sheep herd went from a dozen scraggly sheep she found on Craigslist to the herd of 150 thanks to funding from her Bob Woodruff Farming Fellowship. The Fellowship allowed her to get a specially designed sheep squeeze so she could handle the large sheep despite the injury to her leg sustained during combat. “This goes beyond helping one wounded veteran to helping a growing community of women veteran farmers,” she said.