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Young veterans urged to take up farming

November 21, 2014

Veterans make great farmers, and with high rates of unemployment among veterans, Sergeant Andrew Rondeau urges young veterans to start farming.

Rondeau, a student and veteran at UW-River Falls, gave a lecture, “Getting Started in Farming: Veterans and a New Generation,” last Thursday encouraging soldiers and veterans to take up farming. He said veterans have the skill-set ideal for the business.

Veterans are able to think on their feet, make tough decisions, and have a sense of good time-management as well as working hard to produce a product.

“As veterans, I think we have certain qualities that can translate well to agricultural work, like helping others and providing for all,” Rondeau said. “We have the drive to do the hard work to get the job done. Farming also provides a flexible work schedule allowing for us to spend time with families at home and work which, as soldiers, we didn’t always have.”

Rondeau is a UWRF horticulture student who will graduate next month. He plans to apply for the UWRF Master of Science and Agriculture program. His goal is to work for the UW-Extension or start a program that allows veterans to start a career in agriculture. He’s worked closely with St. Croix County Agent, Heidi Doering.

“Andrew was my intern this summer through University of Wisconsin-Extension,” Doering said. “This is a really great opportunity for vets because there’s so many aspects of farming that a veteran has skills in. Being in the military often times they are working with mechanical systems and have a different way thinking about things.”

There are many opportunities for veterans to get a start in agriculture. The 2014 Farm Bill provides $100 million for the Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Development Programs, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). There is also the Military Veterans Agriculture Liaison, Outreach and Technical Assistance for Veteran Farmers, and Conservation Program Opportunities for Veterans available for veterans. The USDA makes veterans a priority.

Plants can help human health and wellbeing. Being around plants helps people to concentrate and has a calming presence which helps with anxiety. UWRF has its very own green wall in the Ag Science building. A recent University of Michigan study showed the effect of nature in the home and in the workplace serves to stimulate both the senses and the mind, improving mental cognition and performance.

“Being around plants and animals is good and, with veterans and what we’ve been through, it’s a good place,” Rondeau said. “For right now if you look at unemployment rate, most of us are in rural communities and farming is what’s out there for us.”

Rondeau also encourages potential young farmers to get in contact with older established farmers to rent their land or equipment. The average age of the American farmer is 58 and rising.

“My biggest concern for the younger generation is not having capital to start a farm,” Doering said. “My parents stated in the 80s and there was a lot more capital investment opportunities.”