Imagine you’re an Army veteran returning from tours of duty in Afghanistan relatively unscathed physically but burdened by post-traumatic stress disorder, and you have an excellent performance record, but you are limited to combat-related skills that aren’t relevant on the outside. As a civilian, you’ll probably have to take any job available.
That’s the situation many veterans face when they return home and find no jobs that suit their specialized skills as they make the transition from military to civilian life. A program to retrain veterans for civilian jobs is on the horizon, but this one has a difference: It’s designed to train veterans in the skills they need to transition to jobs in agriculture.
U.S. Rep. Antonio Delgado, D-19, is championing a program that would pair veterans and farmers. The program was launched by Cornell University and is designed to train veterans in the skills they need to transition to jobs in farming when they return home after fulfilling their military service.
“There is a great program put forth by the Cornell University Small Farms Program,” Delgado said during a conference call Monday. “They work to try to team up veterans with farmers who are looking for an extra pair of hands, who will have the discipline and work ethic that is often required on farms.”
The program can take the strain off farmers take some stress off veterans as they adapt to civilian life. In addition to providing veterans with job training in a new field, the program can help farmers find workers in an industry where hiring is a challenge. The labor force in the Twin Counties is erratic and the fact is most people don’t want to work on a farm with its long hours and difficult jobs.
One such blend of farming and military service here in the Twin Counties is Warrior’s Haven, founded by Malcolm Nance, an author and media analyst on terrorism, intelligence and insurgency. Warrior’s Haven is a veteran-run nonprofit farmstead in Stockport that acts as a transition, skills and rehabilitation center. The farmstead has met with great success as a restful location for the modern era veterans of the War on Terror, Iraq and Afghanistan to return to the normal tempo of life and gain valuable skills.
Many farms in this area are family-owned, but future generations don’t always want to continue the family tradition, and that can add to the farm-workers shortage. The program backed by Delgado is a method where, with the right veteran and the right circumstances, hiring veterans could be an excellent opportunity.
Program coordinators must do a flawless job of matching veterans who want to work with their hands and enjoy peace and solitude with the right farms. And more farms in the Twin Counties have to get on board with the program. The farm in this area is in jeopardy as prices fall and families move on. Veterans with courage and a solid work ethic can be the remedy for this area’s sagging agricultural economy.