I returned on Sunday from the Farmer Veteran Coalition’s latest event in Elkins, Pennsylvania. The event provided training and education for veterans interested in small-scale intensive farming practices. I presented a brief lecture on small business law and agricultural law. I made sure to note some of the very important exceptions available to farmers from the Fair Labor Standards Act and the Occupational Safety and Health Act. I also covered the general principles of the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act and covered briefly the subject of the Agricultural Bankruptcy code. My goal was to introduce them to the concept of Agricultural Exceptionalism, the idea that farmers and food producers are treated differently under the law, and that these differences can be exploited for financial benefit.
As I chatted with the participants about their business plans, I noticed that each one wanted to explore some agricultural niche. A Marine I roomed with shared an impressive amount of knowledge on the subject of aquaponics. Another is already in business growing and direct-marketing some very rare and insanely hot chilies (I tried a “mild” one, the size of a large corn kernel, which melted half my face). Most of the rest were interested in growing organically or growing specialty crops and heritage breeds.
I also noticed that there was a familiar intensity to everything they did. They asked some very shrewd questions during my brief, the kind you would only expect from first or second year law students. They quickly grasped some sophisticated agricultural techniques during Andy Pressman’s superb Small Plot Intensive Farming class. Most of vets came to the retreat with fully articulated business plans, compelling products they were growing already, or some other interesting marketing approach.
The vets I met with are still enormous assets for their country. They are creating jobs, strengthening rural communities, and growing great food. As they always have, they will succeed in this. If you want to get involved in a great cause, click here.