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A Salute to Rural Veterans

I think we can all agree that political events in the United States over the last few weeks will be remembered in great detail in our history books.  While much of the country remains divided along political party lines, we are at the same time, strongly united by our profound and unending gratitude to America’s Veterans today, November 11, 2016.  Their sacrifice and service cannot be measured, and because of their commitment, we can live free in the United States of America.

The American flag is displayed on Bigg Riggs farm owned by U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) veteran Calvin Riggleman in Hampshire County, WV on Wednesday, Jun. 24, 2015. Riggleman served in Iraq and serves his community farm fresh organic produce, and food products made by the Bigg Riggs Farm team. For the rest of veteran Calvin Riggleman’s story, please see the addendum to this article below. USDA Photo by Lance Cheung. 20150624-FFAS-LSC-0095 USDA Photostream

The American flag is displayed on Bigg Riggs farm owned by U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) veteran Calvin Riggleman in Hampshire County, WV who served in Iraq and now provides his local community with farm fresh organic produce, and food products.  Photo by Lance Cheung – USDA Photostream

Veterans come from all walks of life in the United States, but did you know a large percentage hail from rural agricultural roots?  As posted on the USDA Blog, “Deputy Under Secretary Lanon Baccam provided an overview of USDA’s support for veterans.”  In his article, “Veterans Returning to Civilian Life Bring Skill and Talent to Farm and Ranch,” Baccam, said that while only about 16 percent of the US population lives in rural/agricultural America, veterans coming from those rural areas comprise 40 percent of the military!

Additionally, the USDA estimates that approximately 1,300 veterans and their family members return to civilian life each day, and “transitioning from the military to agriculture is a natural fit for many of these families.”  “According to the USDA Economic Research Service, the unemployment rate for the rural post-military population fell to 5 percent in 2015 – – its lowest level since its 2010 peak of 10.3 percent.  Moreover, the unemployment rate for young rural veterans (ages 18 to 34) has also declined — from a high of 15.7 percent in 2009 to 7.9 percent in 2015. While that reduction in unemployment is partly due to the national economic upturn, it also is due to the public and private efforts which help veterans transition into the workplace much more quickly and into better paying jobs that fit with their skills.” (Veterans Returning to Civilian Life Bring Skill and Talent to Farm and Ranch)

The USDA continues to help veterans by establishing partnerships and programs to find careers in agriculture.  To read the post by Deputy Under Secretary Lanon Baccam in its entirety, please use the following link:

Veterans Returning to Civilian Life Bring Skill and Talent to Farm and Ranch

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The UF/IFAS Panhandle Ag Extension Team is deeply grateful for the service and sacrifice of all of America’s Veterans, past, present, and future.

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Here is additional information about veteran Calvin Riggleman and Bigg Riggs Farm

The American flag is displayed on Bigg Riggs farm owned by U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) veteran Calvin Riggleman in Hampshire County, WV on Wednesday, Jun. 24, 2015. Riggleman served in Iraq and serves his community farm fresh organic produce, and food products made by the Bigg Riggs Farm team.   Riggleman grew up on the family farm but it was his comrades-in-arms from Iraq who helped him figure out how to make the farm productive, transforming an orchard with roadside sales to a multidimensional farm that provided value added food processing to make a wide range of condiment products such as apple butters, jams, sauces, and drink mixes for sale online. Bigg Riggs farm utilized community supported agriculture (CSA) operations, farmer’s markets and contracts with Whole Foods and others to improve the efficiency and productivity of the farm. Riggleman’s family has farmed in Hampshire County, WV since 1775, which is the same year the USMC was established. The original family farm has been owned and operated for five generations. Bigg Riggs Farm sells under the Homegrown for Heroes label and veteran farmers such as Riggleman may be eligible for support and services from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) New and Beginning Farmers program. Veteran farmers are encouraged to contact the USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) office in their county. The following web site will provide the address of a USDA Service Center and other Agency offices serving your area along with information on how to contact them. offices.sc.egov.usda.gov/locator/app?state=us&agency=fsa

 

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