Boots on the farm: helping veterans access agribusiness

R.J. Anderson/Cornell Cooperative Extension

By R.J. Anderson

As a member of the Seabees, the U.S. Navy’s elite construction battalion, James Turrell spent seven years putting his blood, sweat and building expertise to work all over the world, including stops in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and Fukushima, Japan, following the 2011 nuclear disaster. The work was fulfilling and rewarding – and hard for Turrell to walk away from.

But in 2012, when medical retirement ended his military career, Turrell was tasked with building a new life in the private sector. Realizing he needed an occupation that allowed him to be his own boss, work with his hands and do something that created a tangible and positive outcome, Turrell chose to become a farmer.

Turrell’s transition from soldier to farmer is one the USDA and locally based organizations such as Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) and the Cornell Small Farms Program (CSFP) would like to see replicated on a larger scale. As older farmers begin to retire and the U.S. military trends toward downsizing, the theory is ex-soldiers, many of whom come from rural backgrounds and are searching for new career opportunities, would be ideal candidates to step into agriculture roles.

To help New York’s military veterans navigate this process, CCE and CSFP are partnering on a series of educational programming opportunities designed to provide knowledge and resources to facilitate entry into agribusiness.

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