April 20, 2024

Farmer veterans, a legacy of service in rural America

The Zipline

American Farm Bureau president Zippy Duvall (left) tours the Luker Family Farm in Alabama and shakes hands with World War II veteran Robert Luker.

We pause as a nation to express our heartfelt gratitude to our veterans. It never quite feels like enough, however, compared to all these men and women have sacrificed in service to our country.

They leave their homes and families for months and years at a time, put themselves in harm’s way and often suffer serious wounds and loss in battle — all to keep us safe here on the home front.

Nearly a quarter of veterans return home to rural America, with many of them coming back to the family farm or beginning a new chapter as first-generation farmers.

One of the greatest honors of my role as American Farm Bureau president is getting to meet the brave men and women who have served our nation and have continued their service at home on the farm. Last February, I met farmer and World War II veteran, Robert Luker.

His family welcomed me to their multigenerational farm in Alabama, and I wished I could have just sat and spent hours chatting with this farmer veteran. We can never thank Robert and his generation enough for their service to our country.

Robert, and many like him, played a role in defeating evil and then came home to pick back up on the farm, raising crops and raising a family. It’s a story of bravery and perseverance told over in every generation.

Did you know that one in every six farms has a producer who is currently serving or who has served in the military? Farm families, like mine, are proud of these heroes in our families.

As many of you know, my son, Vince, was an Army helicopter pilot and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Like many veterans, he served with men and women who lost their lives serving this nation.

The stories of their sacrifice are a constant reminder that not every family gets to welcome their son or daughter back home, and our hearts go out to these families and to the service members who return with the scars of battle.

For many veterans, farming and ranching provides a way to restore their spirits as they put their skills to work in a new field growing the food that fills America’s pantries and dinner tables.

I can think of no better place to heal and rebuild than rural America, as physical, mental and emotional trauma can follow our veterans for the rest of their lives.

As a nation, we must continue to make it a top priority to provide our veterans with the resources they need when they return home from serving our country.

For example, the farm bill plays a key role with programs for veteran farmers, including financial and risk management support to ease the transition for veterans returning to rural America to start or begin again in agriculture.

American Farm Bureau is also proud to be a long-time supporter of the Farmer Veteran Coalition, an organization committed to connecting veterans to agriculture. This coalition, the first of its kind, began when a small group of farmers met to discuss how they could create jobs for veterans on their farms.

In addition to the training and resources that the Farmer Veteran Coalition provides, they offer the public a way to support veterans through their Homegrown By Heroes label.

The HBH label certifies products grown and raised by American veterans so that all Americans can support these brave men and women. To learn more about the label and the work of the Farmer Veteran Coalition, visit farmvetco.org.

I hope you’ll join me — all year long — in giving thanks for our veterans and in thanking them personally.

Their sacrifices make it possible for us to enjoy the freedoms we have in our country, and they should all know how much we value and appreciate them. To our veterans, thank you for your service.

Zippy Duvall

Zippy Duvall

Zippy Duvall, a poultry, cattle and hay producer from Georgia, is the president of the American Farm Bureau Federation.