• September 22, 2014

Ex-soldiers turning their swords into plowshares

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Posted: Wednesday, May 14, 2014 4:30 am

There is an interesting phenomenon underway that may provide a bounty of opportunities to soldiers on their way out of the Army.

It’s barely in its infancy stage, but the signs are there: Outgoing soldiers are putting down their guns and picking up the plows.

The phenomenon isn’t widespread mind you, but in the past few months I’ve seen some evidence of former soldiers getting into farming and ranching.

In this issue of the Fort Hood Herald, we have a story of about a program that teaches farming skills to veterans and soldiers interested in getting into agriculture once they get out.

The program — From Battleground to Breaking Ground: A Transitional Journey — is this Saturday at the Bell County Expo Center.

That article mentions the success story of former Marine Sgt. Doug Havemann, who entered the corporate world when he left the military seven years ago.

The corporate world didn’t work out for him, so now he’s trying his hands at ranching.

“Transitioning into agriculture was actually easier than transitioning into business,” said Havemann, who owns a 20-acre farm with nine grass-fed cows east of San Antonio. “The manual labor piece is easy.”

And just a few months ago, in the Killeen Daily Herald, we ran a story about a former Fort Hood soldier who now runs a pig farm near Copperas Cove.

Ron Chase, a combat veteran, and his wife decided to start the farm after Ron had trouble finding work when he left the Army.

The couple’s herd of adult pigs on the farm gives birth to dozens of piglets every year, which the Chases sell once the young pigs are old enough.

Whether the food is beef, pork or vegetables, running a farm isn’t easy. But neither is soldiering. You have to work well with others, work well outdoors and be able to problem solve and perform regular maintenance.

The effort of getting former soldiers into farming solves multiple problems at once. It gives jobs to veterans in need of jobs, and it helps add to our nation’s food supply. And in the case of Ron Chase, he has partnered with Fort Hood’s commissaries to pick up expired produce that normally would be thrown away, and bring it to his pigs, which gobble up the food in a frenzy.

That’s the kind of innovation we need nationwide.

Jacob Brooks, a former Army tanker, is the city editor for the Killeen Daily Herald. Contact him at jbrooks@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7468.

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