Four new state organizations have joined the Farmer Veteran Coalition, which is non-profit that helps veterans pursue careers in agriculture. The organizations are from Arkansas, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee.
The new chapters at a glance
"We are humbled to serve the veteran farmers of Arkansas and come alongside the national organization as we become a voice and source of support for an incredible community of Americans," said Michael Sparks, president. The organization serves 500 members. It began to form in fall 2019 with the Vets4Ag Summit – a trifecta of Arkansas Farm Bureau Federation, Arkansas Department of Veteran Affairs, and the Arkansas Department of Agriculture. Marine Corps veteran Jason Smedley of Arkansas Farm Bureau led the charge.
"'To be rather than to seem,' is the state motto of North Carolina. That is what we are seeking to do with the launch of FVC of North Carolina. To be supportive of the military members who have served this country. To be part of the backbone of the agricultural industry which is No. 1 in the state of North Carolina. To be what we are: veterans who are farmers and ranchers, in service once again to our country," said Lovay Wallace-Singleton, president. The organization serves 1,000 North Carolina members. Wallace-Singleton is the Founder of Veterans Employment Base Camp and Organic Garden.
"We are so excited that South Carolina is the newest addition to the Farmer Veteran Coalition family," said Matthew Rutter, president. "We know that our chapter will provide the support needed across the Palmetto state to help mobilize South Carolinians to feed America." The chapter serves 500 members. There are veterans farming 800,000 acres in the state. One in ten South Carolina adults are veterans, with South Carolina ranking ninth in the United States in military retiree population. Members grow a tremendous variety of products from truffles to apples to commodity crops to livestock.
"The creation of the Tennessee Chapter of the Farmer Veteran Coalition is the culmination of months (and in some cases, years) of hard work by a great team of people with a shared interest in supporting veterans in agriculture," said Ron Bridges, Army veteran and president. "We look forward to creating a stronger community of farmer veterans across the state and finding new ways to network and share resources."
These four new state organizations join a growing network of state chapters now numbering 13 that boast ties to a national organization dedicated to cultivating a new generation of farmers and food leaders while helping veterans with their new post-service mission. Other chapters operate in Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, New York, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington.
“Having these four new state chapters moves us one step closer toward our long-term vision of regional expansion in sync with the USDA's ten farm production regions,” said Jeanette Lombardo, FVC’s Executive Director.
Helping veterans achieve success
Rooted in its strong belief that veterans possess the unique skills and character needed to strengthen rural communities and create sustainable food systems, the organization recognizes that agriculture additionally offers veterans purpose, opportunity, and physical and psychological benefits.
“Ever increasing numbers of our military veterans come from rural areas,” says Michael O’Gorman, the project’s Founder and Chief Agricultural Officer. “We find ways to offer them opportunities in agriculture. We assist veterans obtaining everything from equipment, business plans, financial advice and training.”
Chapters bridge the gap between a nationally driven movement and resources at the state/county level to help veteran farmers achieve success in agriculture. They are essential for ensuring members are aware of regional opportunities.
The Farmer Veteran Coalition is headquartered in Davis, California, and services a network of more than 20,000 veteran members nationwide. FVC works with the agricultural community, partners and sponsors to support those who served our country once by defending it, and now as farmers feeding it.