A special sunrise flag-raising ceremony at the National Agricultural Center & Hall of Fame in Bonner Springs, KS on Friday November 16th marked the start of the annual Farmer Veteran Stakeholders Conference, welcoming veterans of all service eras—including those still serving—who are currently farming, interested in farming or just want to learn more about the veterans in agriculture movement. The conference is organized by the Farmer Veteran Coalition, that aims to cultivate a new generation of farmers and food leaders and develop employment and meaningful careers through the collaboration of the farming and military communities.
Agworld’s VP of Operations LeeAnn Murphy, a proud U.S.A.F. veteran herself, attended the conference and enjoyed the great set of events that took place during the conference. LeeAnn: “The conference featured a number of distinguished speakers, all of whom spoke about very interesting and inspiring topics. Chris Chinn, Director of the Missouri Department of Agriculture, for example spoke about the need for Ag technology to be available to all farmers, while at the same time parents are driving their kids to McDonalds to use the Internet for homework. This highlights the issue of connectivity in rural areas and I think Ms Chinn did a great job of emphasizing why this should be a priority for governments and private businesses alike to find a solution.”
Giving veterans the opportunity to work in agriculture is a cause that is close to LeeAnn’s heart, as longtime board member of local nonprofit organization Veterans to Farmers. The mission of Veterans to Farmers is to train veterans in agricultural systems, technologies, and business operations for a fulfilling and sustainable lifestyle. LeeAnn: “There is a need in agriculture for skilled and motivated workers just as there is a need among veterans for a fulfilling and sustainable second service, which is why veterans and agriculture go together like peas and carrots in my opinion!” The Farmer Veteran Stakeholders Conference showed us all the great work that is happening throughout the country with many grassroots organizations involved. Michael O’Gorman, Executive Director of the Farmer Veteran Coalition, echoed this exact sentiment in his presentation: “Just as we need beginning farmers, we need farm managers who know what is going on in the fields.”
LeeAnn adds to this: “The conference was a great opportunity to connect with fellow veterans that are active in agriculture and share interesting conversations. When I asked them about data collection and gathering insights however, most of them indicated that they are not really able to do so yet with spreadsheets or pen and paper being the most likely alternative. I think that this really ties in with some of the keynote speakers at the conference, such as Chris Chinn, and shows that we all have to actively work on bridging the digital divide that is appearing in rural America. I am convinced that veterans can play a key role in making this happen and I am excited to see this play out over the coming years!”