Veterans find kinship in agriculture field
Published 4:29 pm Wednesday, February 15, 2023
In the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the United Service Organizations estimates 181,510 Americans enlisted in the armed forces.
Many of those veterans are now looking for their next opportunity. Combined with the upcoming 20-year anniversary of the Iraq War, even more veterans could be considering a second career. For many veterans, agriculture is the perfect fit.
In Virginia, the Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food and Agriculture helps train veterans for a career in farming. Located in southern Fairfax County on property once owned by the first commander in chief, George Washington, the center provides courses as well as some land for potential farmers to get hands-on experience.
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“The great thing about farming and agriculture is that it’s a continuous learning environment,” said Marcus Roberson, an Army veteran who has benefitted from Arcadia Center training. “You’re challenged every day, and some days you know exactly what to do. Other days you’re kind of like ‘Well, I think I kind of know what to do.’ And then you do it, and either it works or it doesn’t. But what’s really cool is that you learn something.”
Dewey and Barbara Haines met in 2006 while they were both serving in the Army in Kuwait. Today, they operate Hidden Springs Family Farm in Fluvanna County.
The Haineses grow produce, raise chickens and operate a farm store. They’re also planning to add beef cattle to the mix.
They didn’t turn to farming immediately after returning to civilian life, but it didn’t take long for them to realize the nine-to-five lifestyle wasn’t for them.
“She came home one night,” Dewey Haines said, “and she goes, ‘What do you think about being a farmer?’ and we got into the whole conversation … and I said, ‘It sounds like an absolute great job’.
“Because as much as we love the Army, as much as we love working for the federal government and appreciate all the chances and opportunities we had, we were not sure we wanted to stay at a desk job for the rest of our lives.”
Like Roberson, the Haineses are also graduates of the Arcadia Center. They participated in the center’s Veteran Farmer Reserve Program, based on the weekend warrior model of the Army Reserve. Students show up one weekend a month for a year to get practical training in agriculture.
They also shadow full-time farmers in Virginia and Maryland, where they learn that many of the traits honed during military service — hard work, long hours and self-sacrifice — translate well in an agriculture career.
For more information about the Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food and Agriculture, visit arcadiafood.org.