Jose R. Ortega, Incubator Farmer Veteran
What is the Farmer Veteran Coalition?
The Farmer Veteran Coalition
to support the “hardworking farmer veterans who have chosen to serve their nation twice – once by
defending it and once by feeding it.” The idea for the Coalition germinated out of a gathering
convened by Michael O’Gorman, previously of Jacob’s
, in 2007. This group of
California Central Coast farmers and military families identified that farming offers purpose, along
with physical and psychological benefits that could be a great boon to veterans transitioning out of
military service and into other industries. Having been around less than 10 years, this
collaboration between military and farming communities has produced many fruitful relationships and
catapulted farm businesses around the country. Providing dynamic resources for vets entering into
the agricultural sector as well as for established farms looking to mentor and support them, the FVC
is something you should know about.
Are you a veteran interested in agriculture?
Offering veterans a range of resources from financial and legal planning to farm marketing assistance
, the FVC
places emphasis on mentorships. The Coalition can open up a vast network of funding and connections
to support you in your agricultural endeavors. Jose R. Ortega, (US Air Force, Active Duty, Enlisted
2003-2007, Travis AFB, CA), first learned about the FVC upon receiving their financial support to
pursue his education in Ecological Horticulture at UCSC. Jose’s relationship with the FVC continued
well after graduation when he accepted an internship through their programming and was paired with
First Generation Farmers
Receiving a living stipend through the Coalition, he worked as a Farm Assistant for four months at
First Generation Farmers. “You spend the those four months learning from the farmer you’re paired
with...you harvest, wash (produce), deliver restaurant orders, and get to ask the farmer lots of
questions” Jose reflects. All the while you are also “thinking about what you would like to grow and
how you’d like to do it” when it comes time to start your own operation.
The goal is to have you ready for next steps by the end of the internship- in Jose’s case, that
meant leaping into a farmer incubator program at First Generation Farmers. While he negotiated an
agreement with the host farm, the FVC reviewed his business plan and offered guidance before he
presented it to First Generation Farmers, setting him up for success. Jose is currently in his first
season growing lettuce and pumpkins for restaurant accounts in the area.
And if you’re not a veteran...
Anyone can join the Farmer Veteran Coalition: active and non-active military members, family,
friends, supporters, farmers, etc. Host farms do not need to be veterans to participate in the FVC
internship program. If you are an operating farm that’s willing and excited to mentor veterans
venturing into the agricultural industry, you might be eligible to receive funding through the FVC
to hire a vet (or several) to work with you via job or internship.
A rich networking resource that supports vets and farmers in all approaches to agriculture
including: livestock, conventional, organic, cannabis, and beekeeping- it is well worth the time to
get to know the Farmer Veteran Coalition.
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Jane works as a Field Production Specialist at the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable
Food Systems, where her days are filled with tractor work, irrigation coordination, orchard
care, and educating apprentices and interns. Her favorite way to end a long day's work in
the sun, is running down the hill to Mitchell's Cove and jumping in the Pacific.