Along with the relentless drone of sappy holiday carols wafting through every store in America, the holiday season brings a similarly endless barrage of solicitation for support from every group, cause and charity in existence.
That’s because the folks in charge of funding for such groups understand that at Christmas time people are a lot more likely to open their hearts—and wallets—to fork over for organizations in which they believe.
It’s a noble impulse, but of course, none of us can respond to every one.
Here’s a group that is worthy of your consideration, and it may be a group that you haven’t heard about until today.
It’s called the Farmer-Veteran Coalition, a Davis, Calif.-based non-profit started in 2008 to help transition veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan find work and re-establish a productive life and career that is often the hardest part of military service
When I interviewed Michael O’Gorman, the group’s founder and executive director, at a Farm Aid concert, he explained that the impetus to launch the organization was to help military veterans obtain gainful employment, which as the data show, is often a struggle. As a long-time farmer-manager for some of the larger organic operations in California,O’Gorman decided that along with productive work, raising food for a living could be part of the healing process that combat survivors had to go through.
“We wanted to help our veterans by helping them join a new generation of farmers, not just to have a job but to learn a profession that can last a lifetime,” he said. “But as dedicated and hard-working as most military folks tend to be, they need training, they need capital and they need support to succeed as farmers or producers.”
In an op-ed co-authored with Deputy USDA Secretary Kathleen Merrigan in May, O’Gorman noted that as many as one-quarter of all active-duty service members come from smaller, rural communities. It’s natural for them to return to their hometowns, but often difficult to find employment when there aren’t a lot of options from which to choose.
A new generation of farmers
That’s where the coalition comes in. A big part of their program is establishing farm apprenticeships, so that veterans new to farming can get up to speed on the techniques and technologies needed to succeed. Yes, much of the group’s focus is on organic production, specialty produce and raising heritage breeds of livestock. So what? How else are veterans supposed to get started in agriculture, short of somebody stepping up with massive amounts of capital to lend?