Farmer veterans in Arkansas, North Carolina and Tennessee just became a little more connected to their mission.
These states add to a growing network of state chapters that boast ties to a national organization who cultivates a new generation of farmers and food leaders.
The Farmer Veteran Coalition (FVC) is a non-profit that helps veterans pursue careers in agriculture. Headquartered in Davis, California, they service a network of over 20,000 veteran members nationwide. FVC works with the agricultural community, partners and sponsors to support those who served our country once by defending it, and now serve a second time as farmers feeding it.
“A study showed that ever increasing numbers of our military veterans came from rural areas,” reflected Michael O’Gorman, the project’s Founder and Executive Director. “We wanted to find ways to offer them opportunities in agriculture. We have assisted hundreds of veterans with everything from equipment, business plans, financial advice and training.”
Rooted in its strong belief that veterans possess the unique skills and character needed to strengthen rural communities and create sustainable food systems, the organization recognizes that agriculture additionally offers veterans purpose, opportunity, and physical and psychological benefits.
Already with chapter presence in nine states, FVC has a major impact at the local level.
Now, Arkansas, North Carolina, and Tennessee officially have launched full-fledged chapters to add to that list. Chapters are effective at integrating farmer veterans into local agricultural communities. They bridge the gap between a nationally driven movement and resources at the state/county level to help them achieve success in agriculture. They are essential for ensuring members are aware of regional opportunities.
FVC relies heavily on its state leaders to connect with members; they offer an additional way to personalize the farmer veteran experience to individual needs.
“Because national travel remains uncertain, our chapters may be the first to organize local gatherings and on-farm training opportunities that are so important to our members,” shared O’Gorman, whose greatest pride is in helping these veterans with their new mission.
“Even as we are unable to engage in person on a larger scale, chapter organizers are networking with local farmer veterans through teleconference capabilities; the growth is occurring despite COVID-19.”
This, in part, fueled FVC’s ambitious goal for 2020: to have 20 chapters by the end of the year.
To facilitate this growth, FVC made a significant investment last year with a major nonprofit legal firm to standardize the governance of their chapters. In Austin last November for their national Stakeholders Conference, more than 200 veterans dedicated an extra day to learn about building presence in their states. A real testament to the non-profit’s expanding web across the U.S.
“Having these three new state chapters approved by our Board of Directors today is a true milestone,” beamed Sarah Dachos, deputy director, who has been the single most instrumental player to spearhead state-level development. “We are committing considerable time and resources towards developing several more active chapters by the end of the year,”
"We are excited and humbled to serve the Veteran Farmers of Arkansas and come alongside the national organization as we become a voice and source of support for an incredible community of Americans,” said Michael Sparks, president.
Arkansas already has 500 members and recognizes the diversity of agriculture in the state. Jason Smedley of Arkansas Farm Bureau led the charge. He is a Marine Corps veteran and a small farmer himself, and now holds a seat on the chapter board.