(NewsNation) — Thousands of farmers have left the land for other jobs, resulting in a nearly 20% decline in the number of agriculture workers in the past 20 years, according to the the International Labor Organization.
Ken DeVan, who has more than 20 years of military service under his belt, took a chance on farming after his retirement from the service.
The career move changed his life, he said.
“I am kind of my own boss when my wife’s not around,” he said. “Nobody’s shooting at me.”
Habits formed in the military tend to translate well to farming, said Patrick Montgomery, a veteran and the owner of KC Cattle Company.
“That’s absolutely what farming is. It’s a business thing. And a there’s a really good pairing there from the skills you pick up during your time in uniform to exit into transitioning to business,” he said.
The work has helped DeVan heal, too.
“You can’t spend three tours in Iraq and not be untouched,” he said. “Out here it is all good, unless the coyotes eat your chickens.”
According to the USDA, the average age of a U.S. farmer in 2017 was 57.5, and experts believe that number is higher now.
“We’ve got an aging farming generation and we don’t have the next generation of family members staying on the farm,” DeVan said.
He believes the farming business could use more retired veterans.
“Military is a planning culture, we don’t do any willy-nilly. Farmers have got be planners,” he said.
The Department of Veteran Affairs reports that, “About 24% of military vets put down roots in rural America.”
The USDA additionally reported that the median household income in farming in 2022 is about $88,000 annually.
Farming isn’t just turning dirt, either. There’s mechanical agriculture, drones to survey crops and agricultural business matters.
“Continue your service from the military to feeding a nation, because without food, it’s a little difficult,” DeVan said.