U.S. Veterans
8:40 am
Mon November 11, 2013

'Combat Boots to Cowboy Boots' gets vets into agriculture

WANTED: A dedicated worker familiar with intense physical labor. Must possess the ability to organize, anticipate pitfalls and plan ahead. Only those comfortable with individual responsibility and leadership skills need apply.

A want-ad for a farmer or a member of the military? 

The Senate yesterday passed a bill that aims to help unemployed vets get back to work. Many veterans, often used to long hours and high stress levels, would make great farmers.

About 6.1 million veterans live in rural communities, according to the USDA, which is "a higher concentration than anywhere else in the country," so they're already living in farm country.

 The USDA's Risk Management Agency created a grant-funded program designed to teach returning veterans the skills they need to become farmers, which could help put vets in rural communities to work.

“The long-term goal for this project is to help new veteran farmers and ranchers successfully establish farms and ranches in Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado and Missouri,” Kathie Starkweather, with the Center for Rural Affairs, said in a release.

With the skills they learn in the armed forces, veterans are suited to any number of careers. Yet, the unemployment rate for veterans stands at 12.1 percent, about 3 percentage points higher than for non-vets, and some estimates put the unemployment rate for veterans aged 18-24 at a shocking 30.1 percent

It’s tough to get into farming, for veterans and civilians alike, as our reporter Clay Masters found. That’s why programs like the USDA’s and Combat Boots to Cowboy Boots are important.

Across the country this Veterans Day, many vets will return home from ceremonies honoring their sacrifices and turn to the job listings in their local paper. Hopefully, many of them will be out in the field by next harvest.

Harvest Public Media, a reporting collaboration of several public media stations in the Midwest, covers issues of food and food production.