By Richard Murphy
On February 28, 2023
Farming uses many of the same skills essential to the ethos of the U.S. military: hard work, attention to detail and service before self, to name a few.
In 2013, Veterans to Farmers launched to allow Veterans to re-utilize those skills while taking on the challenge of continuing to feed our growing nation and securing our food sovereignty. Its classes provide the hands-on training needed to learn about the many ways a Veteran may participate in agriculture. Although the word “agriculture” summons to mind rows of food and huge tractors, agriculture is really much, much more, with dozens of ways to contribute.
Since 2013, Veterans to Farmers has trained more than 150 Veterans, preparing them with the knowledge and skills necessary to start a farm, work on a farm and grow their own food.
It has not taken the organization by surprise that its classes have been predominantly male.
With that in mind, Veterans to Farmers is determined to expand agricultural opportunities to women Veterans. Currently, 17.3% of the active-duty U.S. military is comprised of women. Those women contribute to the readiness and well-being of the military community across the globe.
Much like the military, women in agriculture are often underrepresented. Only 33% of women in the United States make up the agricultural labor force. And of that, only 14% of those women own their own farm, controlling a meager 7% of farmland in the United States.
You can turn through the pages of history and find it covered with women that changed the trajectory of agriculture. They are seldom recognized for their contributions, but without them we wouldn’t have things like modern genetics, new and revolutionary farm equipment or agriculture in general. Evidence suggests that women started collecting seeds in the fertile lands we now call the Middle East. And from that simple act, the birth of civilization was made possible at the hands of women.
It’s pleasing to report that, in the U.S. military and in agriculture, signs point to rising numbers of women in both fields of work!
To date, Veterans to Farmers has partnered with the Denver Botanic Gardens and Altius Farms in Denver. You will meet some of Colorado’s most remarkable women farmers in both places. These farmers plan, plant and harvest thousands of pounds of beautiful food each season for the local community. Farming is arduous work, and running a farm is even more complicated. Veterans to Farmers aims to help the Veteran “beginning farmer” start with the community and resources necessary for success.
The USDA farm bill defines a beginning farmer as someone who has materially and substantially participated in any farm or ranch operation for 10 years or less. In the attempt to provide more access for Veterans and women, the bill categorizes them as a “socially disadvantaged” group, providing increased funding for the beginning farmer. You can learn more about this on the USDA’s website.
The nucleus of the Veterans to Farmers’ mission is offering Veterans a holistic approach to community and post-traumatic growth. The organization is honored to provide Veterans with a healthy space to learn and connect with other Veterans while learning new skills. It’s operating on the notion that with enough of us answering the call, Veterans can make a notable impact in feeding their communities.
This piece was republished from the VA News.