Veterans History Project highlights farming as viable career path with two panels in March

Alice Echo News Journal

The Library of Congress Veterans History Project (VHP) will host two panels to highlight farming as a viable career path for veterans transitioning to civilian life and to introduce programs that support those who pursue farming.

The events, focused on the benefits and challenges of farming in urban and rural settings, will premiere on the VHP’s Facebook page. Panelists and moderators will be available to answer questions in the comments section.

There are more than 18 million veterans in the United States, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and farming gives some of them the opportunity to become entrepreneurs and gain knowledge and hands-on experience in land management and other skills.

According to the 2017 Census of Agriculture, the average age of farmers is 58 and about 11% of them are military veterans. Veterans who pursue farming careers help to reenergize farming communities, spur rural development and improve food security across the U.S.

The panels will help address questions and concerns veterans may have about how to apply their experience and skillset to their new careers.

The panel on March 26 will feature Justin Butts, a 32-year-old African American Navy veteran who turned his childhood love of farming into a full-time business in upstate New York.

Justin Butts, a 32-year-old African American Navy veteran turned his love for farming into a full-time business in upstate New York. Butts will participate in the panel on March 26.

I always wanted to be a farmer since I was younger, and it was just a matter of finding a path to get there. While in the Navy, I developed an autoimmune disease, and I became more interested in where my food was coming from, so I got more involved in farming,” Butts explained. “There are a lot of resources to learn farming skills, but I say the best way to get into farming is to start farming; leasing land is not as expensive as leasing an apartment.”

A chef-turned-farmer, Butts credits his new career path to his grandfather, who had been a farmer in North Carolina. Butts leases land to raise his livestock, holds a separate job as livestock manager, and owns Butts Bros Handmade Lard Soap since 2018.

Friday, March 19

Veteran Grown: Urban Farming, 11 a.m. CT

The panel will feature farmer veterans in urban settings, as well as leaders from national advocacy organizations that provide training and direct support to them. Their specialties include beekeeping, compost management and vegetable crops. Margo Hale of the National Center for Appropriate Technology and the training program Armed to Farm will moderate the panel, which will include special remarks by Rep. Kim Schrier of Washington, a member of the House Committee on Agriculture.

Friday, March 26

Veteran Grown: Farming, 11 a.m. CT

The panel will feature farmer veterans in more traditional settings, some of whom have benefitted from specialized farmer training programs and one-on-one mentorship. Their specialties include vegetable crops, beekeeping, pig farming, soap making and entrepreneurship. Damon Helton of The Farm at Barefoot Bend in Arkansas will moderate the panel, which will include special remarks by Sen. John Boozman of Arkansas, a member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture.

Military veterans often face challenges while transitioning to civilian life, including physical and psychological traumas due to injuries sustained in the battlefield. Many times, because of invisible wounds that affect their mental and emotional health, such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, veterans experience more difficulty in finding sustainable employment or adequate housing. Personal testimonials point to farming and other careers related to agricultural work as beneficial to veterans, their families and communities, no matter where they live.

Congress created the Veterans History Project in 2000 to collect, preserve and make accessible the firsthand remembrances of United States war veterans from World War I through the more recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. The project aims to help future generations have a better understanding of the realities of military service.

For more information, visit www.loc.gov/vets/ or call the toll-free message line at (888) 371-5848. Follow VHP on https://www.facebook.com/vetshistoryproject/