A call to farms: help for military veterans

By Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service

Military veterans in Nebraska who are new to farming, or just interested in finding out about it, have an opportunity this week to see how others have turned their military skills into a career in agriculture. 

The Answering the Call conference on Thursday in Seward offers an opportunity for veterans to get an up-close look at how other veterans are building farming operations. 

Jordan Rasmussen, a policy program associate with the Center for Rural Affairs, explains farming is a challenge, but many veterans have what it takes. 

"Often farming and ranching can be a natural fit for them because the dedication and commitment and work ethic kind of remains the same,” she explains. “With that said, there's also a difficulty in breaking into the farming business."

Beginning farmers often face challenges accessing financial resources and land, and expert panelists at the conference will address those issues along with other topics. 

A highlight of the day, says Rasmussen, will be tours of Ficke Cattle Company and Shadow Brook Farm.

"This is an opportunity to take these veterans and to introduce them to others in similar situations that have begun their own farming operation so they can see how the chicken operation is working or how some folks are beginning small-scale local produce production," Rasmussen points out.

The event is sponsored by the Center for Rural Affairs and Legal Aid of Nebraska. And for those who cannot attend, Rasmussen says there are resources available through both organizations. 

"We also have staff members that are willing to sit down and talk with veteran farmers if they're looking to get started or wherever they're at in their operation to help them understand some of the resources available and also troubleshoot in a variety of those piece," she states.

According to census data the average farmer is 58 years old, and the number of U.S. farms has dropped 4 percent in the past decade. 

Rasmussen says, with the right support, veterans returning to civilian life can become the next generation of farmers.