When former Sgt. Doug Havemann separated from the military about seven years ago, he entered the corporate world. That adjustment proved to be difficult, so he decided to do something completely different: agriculture.
“Transitioning into agriculture was actually easier than transitioning into business,” said Havemann, of Nixon, about 140 miles south of Fort Hood. “The manual labor piece is easy.”
After attending a workshop that introduces agriculture to former and current service members, Havemann learned more about the resources available to help him manage his 20-acre farm, which is in its first year of production with nine grass-fed cows.
Local veterans, active military and Reservists interested in learning more about resources and tools available to help start a farm or ranch can attend the “From Battleground to Breaking Ground: A Transitional Journey” workshop Saturday in Belton. The free workshop will feature a panel of state and federal agencies, which will share how programs can be utilized by attendees for technical and financial assistance. Guests will hear from veterans who attended prior workshops and can discuss how it helped them start or further their agricultural operation.
Carlos Gutierrez, director of the University of Texas-Pan American’s Veterans Business Outreach Center in Edinburg, recently hosted a workshop.
“These collaborative events provide a great opportunity for knowledge transference between veterans’ programs that reach different segments of the population,” Gutierrez said. “Participants are able to see how various programs work together and how they can leverage all of the great resources that are out there.”
Retired Chief Warrant Officer 2 Doug Rose, who works in human resources at the USDA’s Texas Natural Resources Conservation Service, said all it takes is a few acres of land to become a farmer.
“A lot of people think in order to be in agriculture, you have to have 1,000 acres,” Rose said. “If you have a couple of acres, you can be involved in it.”
Since soldiers and veterans are used to hard work outdoors, Rose said getting involved in agriculture can be a great fit for service members who retire or transition out of the military.
“You have a lot coming back who are struggling to find jobs,” he said. “The (average) farmer is close to 70 and we need people involved in agriculture.”