Shelly Woods, veteran and farmer, served our country during the 1980’s finishing up her time in the military just prior to Desert Storm. Upon returning to civilian life, Woods was longing for community. “I didn’t ever feel like I fit in a lot of the veterans groups, I was either too young or a woman,” Shelly recalled. She then found the Farmer Veteran Coalition. “This has been the first veterans group for myself that I have ever really felt like I found my people.”
What started as a hobby for Woods has quickly become a passion. Shelly Woods is now the president of the Minnesota chapter of the Farmer Veteran Coalition, a non-profit organization that assists those who have served our country's military in developing competitive and meaningful careers within agriculture. Woods acknowledged many of our service men and women return with wounds — visible and invisible. “Many have found a way to heal and a way to give back to their communities again. Their [veterans] lives have been about service in the military. [Agriculture] gives veterans a chance to serve their country again, by feeding them.”
The Farmer Veteran Coalition (FVC) began in California in 2007 and has become a national organization which includes state chapters. Woods said that she, along with Nathan Hanel, have been working for the better part of two years to get the Minnesota chapter up and running. “We’re still very new. We want to serve the veterans and farmers in Minnesota by helping them with resources, networking, and giving us a forum to talk and gain knowledge from each other. We want to be a voice for veteran farmers in the state,” Woods noted.
One of the goals of the Minnesota chapter of the FVC is to provide those who have served our country with hands-on experience for each individual's areas of interest. Woods said they want to take veterans who maybe don’t know what they want to do in agriculture and bring them on to working farms — be it dairy, crop, beef or otherwise, and really show them what it is like to run a successful business in agriculture. “We also want to help them find farming resources in Minnesota specifically, like the grants that are available from the Minnesota Department of Ag and others,” said Woods.
She also said that they want to provide assistance to veterans when it comes to navigating some of the more difficult tasks on the paperwork side of farming. “We want to have people that can help [veterans] walk through the processes a little more clearly,” she said.
Because the Minnesota chapter is still very new, Woods said there are a lot of things that are still a work in progress. “Right now we’re still collecting names of veterans who are open to having people out [to their farms],” stated Woods. She also mentioned that the Minnesota chapter is gearing up for their first state event that will be held in Buffalo. The event will offer veterans an opportunity to gather, network and see what the FVC is all about.
Non-veterans who would like to give back to those who have served our country have the opportunity to do so as well. “Anybody can join the Farmer Veteran Coalition. If you are not a veteran you can join as an associate member,” Woods shared.
More information about the Farmer Veteran Coalition can be found at www.farmvetco.org and on Facebook at Farmer Veteran Coalition of Minnesota.
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