In 2002 I enlisted in the Marine Corps on an Infantry contract with the thought of making it a career. Three deployments later, in 2006, I left the Marine Corps and decided to enroll in college with only a vague plan as to what new career to pursue. Long story short, I graduated from the University of California, Davis with a Bachelors of Science in Psychology and started looking for a job that would allow me to serve other vets. At no time did I ever think I would be working in the field of agriculture.
I soon got hired on with the Farmer Veteran Coalition, a national non-profit organization. The FVC was started in 2008 by Michael O’Gorman. He isn’t a Vet, (though his son served in Iraq with the Coast Guard) but he’s very successful in agriculture and had a dream of helping Veterans. We are a small group (4 people full time) and half of us are Vets, including Tia Christopher, who has been working for Veteran organizations for seven years. The FVC was designed to provide resources to Veterans who want to start new careers in the food and farming industries. We offer mentorships, internships, educational retreats, grants, and information resources. The FVC is growing by leaps and bounds, working with over 200 Veterans since 2008. Since joining the FVC team, I have learned that our country is in strong need of young people to join the ranks of farmers. Returning Veterans can help themselves and their communities by moving into agriculture. Farming is capable of giving back to Vets as well, not only as a new career, but can also be a route for adjusting to life outside the military and honestly–to clear your head. At FVC we have many success stories and my email is bombarded daily by Vets who have heard about our programs and want to know what we can do for them. As National Veteran Outreach Coordinator I am thrilled to give back to the Veteran community in a very real way.
Chris Ritthaler served as a rifleman in the U.S. Marine Corps from 2002-2006 with 2nd and 3rd FAST Companies as well as 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, leaving as a Sergeant. He has deployed to Iraq twice and Cuba once. Chris now serves as the National Veteran Outreach Coordinator for the Farmer Veteran Coalition.