farmer veterans

John Allen served in the Marine Corps for nearly a decade before transitioning to cattle farming. Photo by Michael D. Tedesco

The Farmer Veteran Coalition (FVC) is a national organization dedicated to mobilizing veterans to feed America. By offering educational opportunities and financial support, they aim to provide former military members a path to a career in agriculture.

Considering the fact that many who pursue the military grew up in rural communities, the transition makes sense.

“I’ve lived all over the world, but I grew up on the farm where we live now,” says John Fant, retired U.S. Army Colonel. Fant served on active duty for 27 years before he decided to retire and get back to his agrarian roots.

Five years ago, he returned to his family farm where he now runs a cow/calf operation specializing in grass-fed beef cattle. He also serves as the chair of the FVC of Virginia.

“While I was considering the transition to farming, I attended a conference on heritage breeds,” Fant says. “While I was there, I met the director of FVC and got the idea to start a chapter in Virginia.”

veteran farmers

Photo by Michael D. Tedesco

The idea stuck with him – especially as he thought more about FVC’s mission.

“The more involved I got in the business, the more I realized food security plays an integral role in national security,” Fant says. “It made a lot of sense to think people who had spent years working in national security would thrive working in food security.”

Fresh Branch Farm

John Allen served in the Marine Corps for nearly a decade before transitioning to agriculture, raising Piedmontese beef cattle on the farmland that has been in his family for three generations.

Like many others, Allen appreciates the heart behind FVC.

“There’s an inherent connection between veterans,” Allen says. “There’s real value in networking with people who understand what you’ve been through and sharing resources and knowledge with other veterans who have a similar love for agriculture.”

veteran farmers

John Allen with his wife and daughter. Photo by Michael D. Tedesco

Petersburg Grows

Former U.S. Coast Guard member Paul Meyer is the man behind Petersburg Grows, a micro-urban farm in Petersburg. He got involved with FVC in his second year of farming.

“I was renovating old chicken coops into high tunnels and growing areas,” Meyer says. “I donated some of the items to Cheerful Chicken Farm, which was run by another veteran. He told me about FVC and how he received a grant to help grow his farm.”

Financial support goes a long way in the agricultural community – but so do connections with others.

“I’ve benefited from FVC through networking with other veterans,” Meyer says. “I also use the logo in my labeling and on my invoices.”

Hudson Heritage Farms

Denise Hudson and her husband are prior active-duty Air Force, Air Force Reserve and Army National Guard. Today, they run Hudson Heritage Farms and specialize in natural, grass-fed meats and livestock.

The Hudsons joined forces with FVC eight years ago. They were the first farm in Virginia to carry the FVC-sponsored certification, Homegrown by Heroes, a label that lets customers know they’re supporting a veteran farmer with their purchase.

“As a military member, you’re used to responsibility, long days, hard work and dedication to a cause,” Hudson says. “Farming is the same way.”

veteran farmers

Photo by Michael D. Tedesco

A Natural Fit

According to Fant, the best thing FVC can do is point veterans in the right direction.

“Veterans don’t need a lot of help,” Fant says. “That’s one of the benefits of being in military service. They already have the drive and the initiative. All they need is a road map – and off they go.”

Benefits of Joining the Farmer Veteran Coalition:

For a veteran or an active-duty military service member, FVC membership makes you eligible for all of our programs:

  • The Farmer Veteran Coalition Farming Fellowship, Homegrown by Heroes and attendance at workshops, retreats and webinars.
  • We continually negotiate with various farming companies to provide additional benefits and discounts on farm supplies from major national and local suppliers.
  • You also will be a member of the FVC community, connecting you with other veterans who may be pursuing a career in agriculture similar to your own.

There is no cost to join – simply complete a short questionnaire about your military and farming background.

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