In response to years of growing interest by military veterans, the Farmer Veteran Coalition and the Drake University Agricultural Law Center convened the first ever National Stakeholders Conference, November 14-15, in Des Moines, Iowa. This was the first national forum on programs and services for veterans pursuing careers related to food and agriculture. All stakeholders from the agricultural and veteran communities were invited: non-profits, businesses, philanthropists, government agencies, trade associations, and educators.
“All across the country there are organizations serving farmer veterans, and it was time to bring them together in a national gathering to share program ideas, resources, and inspiration,” says Gary Matteson, Chairman of the Board of the Farmer Veteran Coalition.
Speakers represented local, state and national non-profits and trade associations, local, state and federal government programs, agricultural employers, civic leaders, farmer veterans, entrepreneurs, and others. The conference included panels on lessons learned to date and sessions exploring the difficult question of coordinating programs and services.
“RAFI-USA has been responding to the growing needs of veterans interested in farming here in North Carolina. We are excited about getting together with organizations around the country to share information and to coordinate our work going forward. Returned veterans deserve our best work, and this gathering is an important part of delivering it” said RAFI’s Executive Director Scott Marlow.
Veterans have diverse motivations and aspirations, but share opportunities and experiences that give them advantages in the logistically and physically challenging world of food and agriculture. The challenge for the organizations that serve them is aligning veteran-oriented services and programs with the programs and information for entrepreneurs in food and agriculture. The purpose of the National Stakeholders Conference was to provide a forum for networking and peer-to-peer learning, and to establish partnerships for long-term collaborations.
Registration is ongoing but participants who register after 1:00 PM Central on November 12 will not be guaranteed meals. More information including registration can be found on the conference landing page at iowafarmerveteran.org/farmer-veteran-national-stakeholder-conference.
Sponsors included Farm Credit System, Niman Ranch, Bob Woodruff Foundation, American Farm Bureau Federation, CHS Inc., AgrAbility, National Farmers Union, and Iowa Farm Bureau Federation.
The student associations of Agricultural Law and Military Law hosted a public screening of “Ground Operations: Battle Fields to Farm Fields” for conference participants. The film maker Dulanie Ellis opened and closed the screening.
Farmer Veteran Coalition: Since 2008, the Farmer Veteran Coalition (FVC) has led the national effort to connect military veterans with careers in agriculture. FVC’s network of 3,000 veterans from all 50 states is served by a group of mentors, a small grants program, the Homegrown by Heroes label for veteran-grown product, and support with legal assistance, business planning, food safety and career counseling.
Drake Agricultural Law Center: Founded in 1983, the Drake Agricultural Law Center is internationally recognized for providing opportunities to study how the legal system shapes our food system and influences the ability of the agricultural sector to produce, market and utilize agricultural products. The Drake Law School supports an array of courses, publications, conferences, research initiatives, and a certification program in food and agricultural law.