Missouri Veterans Learn (and Teach) about Farming

More than 50 military veterans recently attended educational sessions on resources that can help them start farming. Workshops in central Missouri near Fort Leonard Wood and at the Lincoln University campus brought those in the know together with active duty veterans and military retirees. They shared information on farm loans, assistance with disabilities, and markets for alternative crops.

Beef cattle and financing were topics of widest interest among the veterans. Other interests surfaced too. Timber, grains, honey, poultry, goats, vegetables, and grapes were among them. These enterprises represented the diverse, hilly and thin-soiled landscape and small farms common in that part of the state.

The veterans themselves were a major source of information. They represented war theaters from Vietnam through Afghanistan and experiences from around the country. Many found people in the room with experience in crops they wanted to learn more about, and set plans to meet again. “Networking at the meeting was awesome,” said one participant. “Do more!” said another.

Several of the veterans were ready to jump in, saying they are now going to start a business plan, find an internship, and explore the loan programs to buy land or finance their first crop.

Many of the participants already owned land, and a few were actively farming. These veterans also came away with plans – to test their soils, plan out a market garden, plant winter crops, and try new markets.

Experts from USDA Farm Service Agency, MO Department of Agriculture, University of Missouri AgrAbility and Extension programs, Lincoln University Extension, and Pulaski County Sheltered Workshop were on-hand at the workshops.

More activities are planned for winter and spring, including a business planning course and farm tours. Funding for events has come from UNFI Foundation and from USDA NIFA, North Central Extension Risk Management Education Center.

The Center for Rural Affairs is organizing this series of educational activities for veterans. TheSustainable Ozarks Partnership, which represents many of the area communities, is a partner too.

Contact me, Wyatt Fraas (wyattf@cfra.org, 402.254.6893) or look at our Veteran Farmers Project web page for more information.

Feature image: Prospective veteran-farmers hear from farmer Mike Duncan about farm startup resources and strategies at a workshop in St. Robert MO, next to Fort Leonard Wood. | Photo by Wyatt Fraas