(Submitted by Ivory Harlow, Program Assistant, Ohio Cooperative Development Center, OSU South Centers)
A growing number of veterans seek careers in agriculture after military service, but starting a farm from scratch isn’t easy. Acquiring the skills, land, infrastructure and equipment to operate a successful farm business can make farming seem like mission impossible.
The Minutemen Farmers’ Cooperative are developing a farmer veteran apprentice training program that will provide education and resources to help service members cultivate post-military careers in Ag.
The Minutemen Farmers’ Cooperative was established in 2015. The Ohio Cooperative Development Center assisted the co-op with formation and business development. Minutemen is structured as a cooperative in Ohio also doing business in West Virginia and a non-profit agricultural training foundation.
The Minutemen incubation training program is 2 to 4 years with a two year apprenticeship program required the first two years and 1 to 2 more years of programming depending on the apprentice’s aspirations. The program plans to partner with various Extension educators to provide online education, and hands-on agricultural experience on a working farm in Jackson County, West Virginia. The training will prepare Minutemen grads to start their own operation or seek professional employment in Ag.
Minutemen’s hands-on training focuses on wholesale production. This differentiates the program from many farmer veteran training programs that focus on direct to consumer sales. The co-op will connect graduates with wholesale outlets to market future farm products. They provide ongoing mentorship and technical support after graduation.
“After witnessing so much destruction in Iraq and Afghanistan, I wanted to grow something,” an aspiring farmer veteran said.
Another shared, “I’m used to having dirty boots, so farming is a good fit!”
Farmers face many challenges during their daily work. They are called to feed an increasing population with less. They must adapt to changing climate patterns and government policies. Farmer veterans face these challenges with resilience.
Military training teaches individuals to work together to achieve the mission. The Minutemen Farmers’ Cooperative honors the spirit of team work and upholds the military core values of service before self, duty and honor.
For more information, check out the Minutemen Farmers’ Cooperative on Facebook.