What is in this article?:
- Only 24 percent of employed young adults age 18 to 24 hold full-time jobs in rural communities.
- Traditional rural employment in farming, logging, mining, fishing and small manufacturing have been declining for many years and the trend is expected to continue.
- Helping veterans from rural communities reintegrate into the agriculture industry may address two problems at the same time.
“And we are also helping veterans to find agricultural jobs—from crop management to working with packers and distributors—and we offer mentoring programs, financial grants, and resource connections to help them get started.”
While the Coalition is “still in its infancy stage,” it has already helped many veterans find jobs, start careers and establish farming operations. Consider Adam Burke, a combat veteran and Purple Heart recipient who was wounded in battle during a 15-month tour in Iraq. Burke established the Red, White and Blueberry Farm near Jacksonville, Florida.
According to the company Web site, the farm helps disabled combat veterans reintegrate back into society through the use of horticulture therapy, while working together in a relaxed, open environment. Burke hires disabled vets who are trying to integrate back into civilian society and provides vocational therapy to those who need it the most.
Other success stories for the coalition include two poultry operations near Fayetteville, Arkansas, and a planned organic vegetable farming operation outside the Dallas-Ft. Worth area designed to provide fresh vegetables to urban dwellers with a farm-to-market enterprise.
“We are also helping many vets to get certifications for industry jobs and can connect them with university programs where they can lay a foundation for a career path in the ag industry,” Ritthaler adds.
“Returning from a theater of war and being released back into civilian society can be a challenge for many and we hope that our efforts will help many vets get back to their roots and learn to be positive and productive role models for others who will follow,” he says.
With a massive withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq scheduled in December, more and more veterans will begin to re-enter society as civilians and many will find high unemployment and a tough job market waiting when they return home. Ritthaler hopes the Farmer-Veteran Coalition can help both veterans and the agriculture industry in the months and years ahead.