Tom Vilsack, the U.S. secretary of agriculture, said recently our country will need 100,000 new farmers over the next several years to maintain agriculture at its current level. Factor in the average age of existing farmers–they’re pushing 60–and a rapidly growing world population that must be fed, and it’s clear there will be many, many opportunities for young and new farmers in the years ahead.
Elsewhere, there is a deep labor pool returning to the U.S. from abroad. American military veterans, who have put their lives on the line to protect the freedoms we all enjoy, come home ready to resume civilian life and make a difference in their local communities.
As we prepare to observe Veterans Day and show our appreciation for these heroes, let’s also work to show them opportunities in agriculture. The Farmers-Veterans Coalition, based in Davis, is finding that veterans, after years spent in the rigors of military service, possess a unique skill set for the farm. The coalition believes that food production offers purpose, opportunity, and physical and psychological benefits. I couldn’t agree more.
There are already success stories out there. Veterans like Colin Archipley of Escondido are now farmers. Archipley’s operation, Archi’s Acres, not only produces basil, lettuce and other vegetables for customers like Whole Foods Market, but also has created the Veterans Sustainable Agriculture Training program as a transition opportunity for veterans.
The Farmers-Veterans Coalition has a goal to assist 10,000 veterans through training, mentorship, and direct assistance – working with partners like Archi’s Acres. We wish them all the success in the world. We need their success.