Homegrown By Heroes helps soldiers become farmers

May 29, 2015

The Illinois Farm Bureau is boosting a year old program to involve Veterans in agriculture. 

The Homegrown By Heroes program is a labeling, marketing, mentoring, and training initiative. It also involves education efforts through community colleges and universities. 

Farm Bureau Director Richard Guebert says the value of it came home to him in a phone call from an elderly farmer.

"His son just returned from a tour of duty and is now experiencing PTSD. You know he has hope that the farmer veteran program  can maybe inspire his son to come back to the farm and be a part of agriculture again. You know farming can be a form of healing."

State Agriculture Director Phil Nelson said during a conference in Bloomington that the Homegrown By Heroes Program is not just not just giving back to people who have given much, but helps agriculture as well.

"The average age of a farmer today is about 56 years. We can bring in a new crop of farmers both young and old. We can continue the traditions of the family farm, introduce their new ideas and innovation."

Nelson says there are 75,000 farms in the state and 100,000 operators, which means there are many opportunities.

Assistant Veterans Affairs Director Harry Sawyer says policies giving land and other incentives to veterans to go back to the farm have been common for most of the nation's history, but have faded in the last seventy years.

"By the second world war our economy and the veterans shifted away from farming, by and large. And the focus was and has been preparing them for work in manufacturing, construction, and other areas."

The Illinois Agriculture and Veterans Affairs Departments want to revive a culture of soldiers returning from conflict and going back to the land that dates to the Revolutionary War. 

Homegrown By Heroes also contains food labeling to highlight veterans involvement in production.