As a teenager, I did what most kids my age would do: hang out with friends and constantly search for a good time. Looking ahead in life wasn’t much of a concern for me. After a series of dead-end jobs and living with my parents, it didn’t take long for me to realize that if I didn’t choose my future, my future would soon choose me. My older brothers had joined the armed services – one in the Army, the other was in the Navy – and both recommended I do the same. Since I loved to travel, I decided to enlist in the Navy.

My goal was to earn enough money for college to later pursue one of my passions: writing. But at the end of enlistment, I received so much more. First, I learned a viable trade as an electrician. To this day, I know my way around a wiring diagram, and I’ve used my knowledge to fix and remodel many areas of my home. Best of all, I developed a work ethic that has stuck with me throughout my career. I often tell people that the military saved my life, because without it I’d doubt that I’d be here.

Just as the U.S. military has assisted others with their college education and home ownership, other organizations have stepped up to help the veterans who proudly served our country. For instance, the Cornell Small Farms Program held its New York Veterans in Agriculture Summit last week in support of veterans interested in the agriculture industry. Organized with the help of the Division of Veteran Affairs and other coalitions, the summit featured presentations on proper outreach strategies in incorporating veterans into the world of farming.

Another program, the Farmer Veteran Coalition (www.farmvetco.org) is dedicated to connecting veterans to agriculture. The group helps military veterans of all eras enter the agriculture industry to begin their careers in food and farming. Based in Davis, California, the Coalition also has chapters in Maine and Iowa. The Farmer Veteran Coalition offers programs such as fellowships and career services, as well as a national stakeholders conference.

On this Veterans Day, let’s take time to honor our current and former military who have sacrificed so much for our country. For me, I reserve this time to thank the military and organizations like the Cornell Small Farms Program and Farmer Veteran Coalition for the greatest contribution: saving me and other veterans.
HAPPY VETERANS DAY from Farming.