When many people think of the term “small business,” quaint shops or down-home restaurants often come to mind. But small farms offer growing (pardon the pun) business opportunities, particularly for entrepreneurial veterans.
And the timing couldn’t be better. Interest in sustainable, organic farming and locally sourced food products has found a new home with Millennials who embrace these trends—and have the money to support them.
Farming can provide veterans multiple advantages. The nature of farm life itself can be a strong draw, offering the opportunity to be your own boss and to see tangible results from your work. Organizations working with veterans note that the decision-making skills and discipline of military life translate well to running a successful farming operation.
Working with nature can in itself be restorative. Veterans Farm, located in Jacksonville, Florida, combines training in farming with horticultural therapy. The combination creates an ideal environment for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder to re-integrate into civilian life. Wounded and disabled veterans may qualify for a fellowship that provides living expenses while learning organic gardening techniques and farm management skills.
Support networks are ample. Numerous organizations exist to help veterans explore if farming is a viable option for them. These groups can provide training in all aspects of farming as well as help beginning veteran-farmers locate resources they need for a successful journey. Many of these organizations were started by veterans as a way to help other veterans.
One of the largest and best-known is the Farmer Veteran Coalition (FVC), based in Davis, California. The FVC provides a clearinghouse for educational and training resources, ranging from college courses to mentoring programs. Similarly, the Veterans Farmers Project, part of the Center for Rural Affairs, Lyons, Nebraska, offers workshops, consultations and a helpline for veterans in Kansas and Nebraska interested in starting their own farm or returning to a family farm.
Both of these organizations provide information regarding “land linking” programs that connect retiring farmers and ranchers who have viable farms with new farmers in need of land. The goal is to facilitate the transfer of ownership of small, family-owned farms.
- In addition to organizations designed specifically to assist veterans, numerous other groups and programs help the neophyte farmer obtain both skills and funding. Check out these three excellent starting points:
- The National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s Small Farm resource page provides links to funding sources, programs and events.
- The United States Department of Agriculture’s Grants and Loans for Farmers page also contain links to many sources of funding.
- The Small Business Administration has many resources available to assist veterans.
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