Veterans have an opportunity to use the land they fought to defend, getting assistance along the way.

Army Veteran Jon Jackson deployed twice to Iraq and four times to Afghanistan between 2003-2015. Now, he channels that energy into a new career as a farmer.

When he was in the service, Jackson had a backyard garden. He grew vegetables and had chickens, also admitting to having an illegal pig when he lived in Columbus, Georgia, near Fort Benning. After receiving a medical discharge following repeated deployments with the 3rd Ranger Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, he decided he wanted to try his hand at a larger farm.

One of his first stops was Farmer Veteran Coalition. FVC is the nation’s largest nonprofit organization assisting Veterans – and currently serving members of the Armed Forces – to embark on careers in agriculture.

“Getting my start in farming, the Farmer Veteran Coalition was the one organization that had the best integrity, the best resources, the best information out there for a farmer like myself to get started,” he said.

He used Farmer Veteran Coalition grants to get started and also connected with other Veteran farmers to gain experience, advice and find camaraderie.

Army Veteran and farmer Jon Jackson on his farm

Army Veteran Jon Jackson on his farm.

Farming start

Jackson’s original goal was to open up a barbecue restaurant.

“It was literally the proverbial question: What comes first, the barbecue joint or the pigs?” Jackson said.

Jackson searched for an in-residence training program but couldn’t find one. Using his Ranger mentality, he started his own, creating the AG Tech to Success program. The collaborative effort is between Central Georgia Technical College, Fort Valley State University and through the group Jackson created, STAG Vets, Inc.

The program aims to increase the number of qualified Veterans trained and educated in food and agriculture production through a comprehensive, hands-on model farm/ranch program within the central Georgia region.

The Sustainable Small Farm and Agriculture Technician program study is a 17-week program. Veterans receive a specialized technical certificate of credit. The program includes hands-on training in the production, management and marketing of small-scale food production.

Farming program origins

Jackson’s location is Comfort Farms in Milledgeville, Georgia. The farm name is in honor of one of Jackson’s teammates. Army Capt. Kyle A. Comfort, a fellow Ranger, was killed in action May 8, 2010, in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province.

Jackson said the constant deployments and horrors of war caught up with him, leading to a mental health crisis.

“I was in a really dark, dark place and I needed help,” he said.

His mental health crisis lit a fire under him. He started the peer-to-peer program for active duty and Veterans. They come out two to four days to work on the farm, helping with farm projects.

“It’s just to get Vets who are going through crisis outside of their own head space and do something productive,” he said. Working with people and on the farm helps them talk through issues, he noted.

Veteran Treatment Court members visit Jackson's farm.

Veteran Treatment Court members visit Jackson’s farm. (Courtesy photo)

Building camaraderie

The program’s goal is to be proactive, building camaraderie before a Veteran needs help.

“We want our shelter during sunny days, not when it’s actually raining,” he added.

Jackson said another Veteran team building event is the upcoming Q For the Few backyard barbecue cook-off during Labor Day weekend. Veteran teams will compete in the contest, cooking two slabs of ribs, eight chicken thighs and a side dish. The competition includes two teams from the Western Judicial Circuit Veterans Court in Athens, Georgia. They target Veterans in the local area who are or could be charged with a felony or misdemeanor criminal offense stemming from mental illness or substance abuse problems associated with service. The Superior Court works with VA. The group came to the farm for a short trip recently and instantly connected with the program.

“These guys have kind of crawled their way out of a dark space and now they’re coming in next week, practicing their barbecue and having fun,” he said.

Advice for Veterans

Jackson’s best advice for a Veteran thinking about farming is to simply volunteer at a farm.

“Learn all types of agriculture,” he said, including visiting everything from blueberry to cattle farms. He also advised to visit chefs to see how they use it on a plate, whether in a restaurant or catering. Jackson believes seeing different types of operations will help Veterans decide – or avoid – a certain type of farming.

“Everyone says, ‘I want to go cattle’ until they get kicked in the chest by a damn cow,” he joked.

Whatever direction a Veteran decides, Jackson wants Veterans to know that farming takes a long time to master.

“Farming is the only profession that you’re still a beginner with less than 10 years of experience, so it’s not a fast process,” he said. “You need to start slow.”

Cattle roam fields on a piece of land Air Force Veteran and farmer Evan Boone leases.

Cattle roam fields on a piece of land Air Force Veteran Evan Boone leases.

From fire trucks to farming

Evan Boone used to spend his days fixing fire trucks during his four years in the Air Force. Now, he spends his days tending to cows, pigs, sheep and chickens.

He started out with a small farm at his last assignment at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland. He said his wife and him fell in love with the farming lifestyle, and soon decided to pursue their dream. Following his discharge, Boone moved to Aroda, Virginia, to start Three Springs Farm.

Growing up in a neighborhood, Boone had little experience outside visiting family farms in West Virginia. He also used Farmer Veteran Coalition for assistance, including webinars and training opportunities to learn. He also received a fellowship in 2019 and a grant to buy a three-door glass freezer for his farm store, which he said was a “game changer” because he can sell direct to consumers.

Boone especially enjoys the farming lifestyle and how every day is both busy and different. He likened the military and farmer lifestyles are similar because the commitment to helping fellow Americans.

“It’s really that sense of duty and kind of being there to feed people,” he said. “That’s what it’s about. It’s about each other.”

Air Force Veteran Evan Boone now owns Three Springs Farm in Aroda, Virginia.

Air Force Veteran Evan Boone now owns Three Springs Farm in Aroda, Virginia.

More information

Read related post: Farmer Veteran Coalition helps Veterans into agriculture careers

Learn more about Farmer Veteran Coalition at www.farmvetco.org.

Read more about Jackson’s farm at https://www.stagvetsinc.org/.

Read more about Boone’s farm at https://www.3springsfarm.com/our-story.

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27 Comments

  1. Yakini Afrika Wisdom September 16, 2021 at 10:50 am - Reply

    I am very interested in this. Please contact me

  2. John Geas September 8, 2021 at 3:55 pm - Reply

    I am interested in this program and was wondering what I need to do to get into it?

  3. bill September 7, 2021 at 3:01 pm - Reply

    NRCS has ongoing favored status for VETS and 1st-time beginner farmers (you are a beginner for 10 years)

    • Michael Huey September 8, 2021 at 5:35 pm - Reply

      Like to kn3if Veterans can get a grant for fencing in my 40 acres so i can raise some cows.

  4. Shallie Gresham September 6, 2021 at 9:48 am - Reply

    Hello and my name is Shallie. I am interested in buying a small farm operation in the Monroe Georgia area. I would want to explore the fast and up and coming medical Cannabis producing farming opportunities. I believe even though cannabis may have a bad name, the medical benefits is astronomical.

    • Maricela Hernandez September 19, 2021 at 2:59 pm - Reply

      We just purchased 20 acres using the VA loan and would like to find out the same. We need fencing as soon as possible. Did you receive an answer? Thank you.

  5. Curtis Wood September 3, 2021 at 8:26 am - Reply

    I would like to help other vets with my design. I have created a subterranean drip feed irrigation system using temperature differentiation at night to move the water into the plants and amplify growth and production. I am projected to get 1,100 pounds out of my experimental garden that is the size of a 1 1/2 car garage. One acre can produce more than 30 tons of produce at 3 times the value of corn, and has been replicated and proven to withstand both droughts and floods.

    • Matthew Leonard Sr September 4, 2021 at 11:49 pm - Reply

      I would love to learn more about your system and design. Please contact me as well.

    • Brian September 9, 2021 at 10:12 am - Reply

      I second that.

  6. Donnell September 2, 2021 at 5:34 pm - Reply

    I am interested in farming, please contact me

  7. joe nathan mcnealy September 2, 2021 at 3:44 pm - Reply

    I would like to purchase small farm with a pond any ideas or help in doing this

  8. Joe Luis Garza Sr September 2, 2021 at 12:57 pm - Reply

    I own a small farm 1.8 acres that’s been in the family for over 100 years. I want to give back to any and all vets in the small town of Beeville county Texas. With a place like a soup kitchen to enjoy a good meal from what we can grow on the land.
    The farm has been neglected for a good long time. The water well needed to be repaired and the land cleaned up. I am going to be 70 years on Dec. 8th 202`1.
    What type of assistance can I receive with this project?

    Retired MSGT Joe Luis Garza Sr

    • Emmanuel Pierre September 5, 2021 at 3:59 pm - Reply

      MSGT Garza do you still have that small farm i’m interested to start. I’m LT Pierre

  9. Charito Phillips September 2, 2021 at 12:24 pm - Reply

    I am a veteran dependent (USMC) and widowed. Planning to have a small farm (4 acre) and I need some assistance. Is there a contact person I can reach out to?

  10. Shtina September 2, 2021 at 11:17 am - Reply

    Thank you very much for this article and sharing your stories. I have an interest in farming and giving back to the community but was unaware this program existed. I will continue my research and hope to visit one of the mentioned facilities in the future. Great work and best wishes!

  11. Vernell Brown September 2, 2021 at 11:00 am - Reply

    I have approximately 4 plus acres of land that I’m not using. I would gladly rent it to someone interested in using the land for farming.

    • Sarah Napier September 2, 2021 at 3:11 pm - Reply

      What state are you located in!?

  12. Kate Heiner September 2, 2021 at 8:53 am - Reply

    The Farmer Veteran Coalition has chapters all over the US so can connect you to other vets in your area who are farming or are interested in starting a farm.

  13. Mr Nobody September 2, 2021 at 8:40 am - Reply

    Sounds expensive. What do you do if your making payments on a piece of land but that’s it. I’ve been 50 percent disabled since I got out and the VA has been half stepping any additional percentage. Trust me, 50 percent is just enough to not be able to find work, but not enough to survive. No one wants a gimpy limper on their job site, and civilians believe the VA takes care of us, guess what America, everyone at the VA HAS A JOB, the administration doesn’t give a care about our well being, only that they get THEIR salery.

    • Mr Somebody September 2, 2021 at 10:08 am - Reply

      What to do if you’re making payments on land? You farm it. Pick out something to grow or herd and do it. If it fails, do it until it doesn’t.

    • SickCall Ranger September 2, 2021 at 11:04 am - Reply

      Facts…

    • Matthew Leonard Sr September 4, 2021 at 11:53 pm - Reply

      Absolutely…I also hate watching people claim things they don’t have and nobody can prove otherwise except them broadcasting how they faked it and get 75% or more, but they are completely full of crap and fully functional in every aspect of their lives. In example, sleep apnea, PTSD, and other crap. Their only deployment was to someplace they never got attacked and didn’t have a gun or body armor. And since I wasn’t actively recording them saying it, I can’t stop it either.

  14. Julian Watson September 1, 2021 at 11:06 pm - Reply

    Wow I love this program! Im Julian, US Navy retired, from the little town of Elaine Arkansas (google it). This brought back so many memories, I can remember a time when everyone had a farm (in their back yard) because that was the only way to feed your family. It created a cohesion throughout the Delta amongst the small farmers, especially for our black farmers, just to survive. You have created an avenue with nature it self for our veterans that will last a lifetime and I thank you very much. Brovo Zulu!

  15. Wm Hubbell September 1, 2021 at 10:52 pm - Reply

    Can you help older veteran advice, getting into small farm

  16. Donald A. Watt September 1, 2021 at 10:48 pm - Reply

    Fantastic. -. Information! I – Wish, They- Had – Stuff, like …This, back in… The – Viet Nam Era !! Awesome! ️️

  17. Mike Rutherford September 1, 2021 at 9:13 pm - Reply

    As a a Vietnam Vet I’m interested in starting a farm.

  18. Lawrence R. Deis Jr. September 1, 2021 at 6:26 pm - Reply

    I’ve owned farms from CA to NY, mostly dairy farms, beef farms in MT and NY, and a chicken farm in NC. I like farming because it’s calms me, I don’t like people on my back all the time, that makes me angry.

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