Monday, November 9, 2015

New website helps military veterans get on the farm

Brent Barnes, Pesticide Management Division

For some of us military veterans, returning to civilian life is a transition that requires a little help.

Brent Barnes is assistant director
of WSDA's
Pesticide Management Division
Before I left the U.S. Army, I had the chance to participate in a wonderful transition program called Northwest Edge that helps veterans enter Washington State and federal employment. This led to a Washington State Veterans Fellowship, a number of informational interviews and job shadowing opportunities and, finally to the position I currently fill, for which I am very grateful.

But not every veteran wants to work for the state government. Some want to farm.

WSDA had been hearing about efforts around the country to help veterans transition into agriculture. We would occasionally get calls for information about organizations involved in this type of work.

While there was interest in sharing this information, most websites I found focused on recruiting veterans for vacant agency positions or linking to benefits available to veterans based on their honorable service. I believed what WSDA needed was a web resource for those who wanted to become farmers, ranchers, or find another way to enter the industry that we support.

The result is - a website sharing links for a range of resources that might be useful to a military veteran seeking a future in agriculture.

Creating this website is one result of WSDA’s interest and intent to help veterans.

We can now provide an online resource that I hope will serve as a clearinghouse for subjects such as assistance for beginning farmers, small farm loans and grants, education, ecotherapy and mentorships.

I hope this small effort will help those who want to enter the agriculture industry, whether in Washington or anywhere transitioning service members relocate.