Run Free Michigan to benefit Farmer Veteran Coalition

Run Free Michigan to benefit Farmer Veteran Coalition

U.S. Marine Maj. Maggie Seymour has a habit of running across states. In fact, Michigan will be her 18th since 2017, which she does through her non-profit organization, Run Free Run.

Each state she runs, she does it for a non-profit cause. Her Michigan run, held Sept. 5-17, will raise funds for the Michigan Chapter of the Farmer Veteran Coalition. A goal of $5,000 has been set, and donations have already started. All funds raised will be passed along to the FVC Michigan Chapter, with plans to use these funds to directly support Michigan farmer veterans.

Seymour will be taking a west-to-east route, covering 15 miles per day. Her route can be found here: Run Free Michigan Route. On this link, you can see her route, as well as start/stop points, and corresponding schedule. She will be traveling with South Carolina-based fellow Marine Corps retired Master Sgt. Jordan Weeks.

“I think I do this because it’s my way of both seeing the diversity and richness of this country — it’s land, people, and culture — and it’s also my way of giving back to local organizations that are serving those very communities that are allowing me to visit,” Seymour said. “Farmer Veteran Coalition Michigan is the perfect non-profit to benefit from my run because it serves veterans like myself and empowers my fellow veterans to reconnect to the land and grow and raise the food that feeds us all.”

Seymour said she’s from a small farm town, “where I’ve walked bean fields and detasseled corn during the summer, and there are a lot of similarities between farming, military service, and running.”

“All three take rugged individualism and communities,” she said. “And all take planning, but also the ability to flex — go with whatever the weather and life throws at you. So, I’m very excited to run through the Midwest and meet the folks working the land.”

The Farmer Veteran Coalition of Michigan is dedicated to support the growth and success of Michigan’s military veterans through agriculture.

FVC­-MI develops and administers programs specifically designed to meet the needs of farmer veterans in the state of Michigan and collaborates with veteran and agricultural organizations within the state to ensure Michigan farmer veterans are given the best opportunity to become successful and sustainable within the agricultural community.

“We are thrilled to have Maggie run across our great state to raise awareness for the Farmer Veteran Coalition of Michigan,” said FVC-MI President Nick Babcock. “Just like Major Seymour’s dedication to run across every state, our membership is dedicated to bringing fresh locally grown produce, meats and value-added products to our local community and beyond.”

How can you help? Share the link, raise awareness, and donate. Also, reach out to former active duty Marine Staff Sgt. and Farm Bureau Insurance Agent Jason Scramlin for more information. He serves on the board at FVC-MI.

“As a combat veteran and passionate about Michigan agriculture, I am proud of the Farm Veteran Coalition mission and proud to serve on the board,” Scramlin said. “Our efforts are to connect veterans to farming, and that has many benefits to vets.

“We are very fortunate to have Maggie Seymore coming to Michigan to assist in raising funds for our chapter,” he continued. “Maj. Seymour has a long track record of supporting non-profits across the country through her long-distance running, and the timing is right. This is an activity we can all support and be proud of. It’s a local event that won’t compromise social distancing, all while promoting a healthy lifestyle, and supporting veterans and agriculture. This is the perfect mixture of goodness that we all need right now in our lives.”

Several farms along the route have stepped up to host Seymour and Weeks. It will allow the farm families the opportunity to host a national influencer who has very limited agricultural exposure by sharing their stories, and have a positive influence on the industry that provides food, fiber, and fuel for our nation.

Currently status of rest locations:

  • Sept. 5, TBD, Gobles area
  • Sept. 6, Buckham Farm, commercial sheep, Alamo/Kalamazoo (non-veteran)
  • Sept. 7, Split Rail Farm, sheep and rotational pasture management, Hickory Corners (veteran)
  • Sept. 8, Adam Bean, honey bees and blueberries, Battle Creek (veteran)
  • Sept. 9, TBD, Albion area
  • Sept. 10, David Allen, honey bees, Jackson (veteran)
  • Sept. 11, TBD, Grass Lake area
  • Sept. 12, Mike Bossory, Alber Orchard & Cider Mill, Manchester
  • Sept. 13, TBD, Ypsilanti area
  • Sept. 14, TBD, Wayne area

You can check out Seymour’s blog, how to donate, and her other efforts here.

Lady Liberty Rose

Lady Liberty Rose

Story from American Fruit Grower May 5, 2020

It was a chance meeting, but one that all involved believe could have a huge impact on the lives of some of our returning veterans.

Lonny Smith, Business Development Manager of AgroLiquid, was at the company headquarters in St. Johns, MI, one day last fall when he learned Michael O’Gorman, Executive Director of the Farmer Veteran Coalition, was visiting. O’Gorman is a longtime West Coast vegetable grower who founded the coalition a little over a decade ago to help returning vets find agricultural employment. He was there with the program’s state coordinator, Nick Babcock of Michigan State University, to meet with company officials about supporting the coalition. Smith had heard of O’Gorman’s work, and he had an idea.

Smith and his wife Kim own Red Hive Golden Retrievers — the name borrowed from their own Red Hive Farm, a small apple orchard — near Bellefontaine, OH. Kim heads the business, which raises European-style English Cream golden retrievers, and they thought their pups would make great farm dogs for veterans.

“A lot of guys are coming out of the military with stress disorders, etc.,” Smith says. “Our thought: Why not provide the best dogs we can possibly provide? They’re buddies, not therapy dogs. Just farm dogs. They will lick your face in the morning and then jump in the truck with you — just constant companionship with a good buddy.”

So Operation Farm Dog was launched. The Smiths now donate one puppy from each litter to a veteran who is going to be working in agriculture. It is not a large operation, but they hope other breeders from across the country will join and donate.

Veterans submit an application, and then Smith interviews them on their plans in agriculture, and Babcock, a veteran himself, from the military perspective.

AGRITHERAPY

The most recent recipient is Jimmy Martin, an Air Force veteran from Carlisle, KY. Upon returning in 2012 — though he serves in the Air Force Reserve and works full-time as a Quality Assurance Specialist for Department of Defense — Martin founded Bluegrass Belties Farm & Orchard.

“I have a small orchard, and here Jimmy had one that he was using to educate other vets coming out of the military who want to get involved in horticulture,” Smith says. “I was impressed — an apple orchard is a lot of work, and he started it from scratch. That’s tough enough as it is, but to educate other vets? Awesome.”

Martin says he grew up on a farm, so he had a feeling that it would be a good experience for other vets, who generally like working outside with their hands.

“I believe the orchard is very therapeutic, especially for veterans who may have the same types of anxieties or need that outlet for stress relief,” he says. “So, I would like to be able to have small classes or whatever it takes to help them with a trade that may help them with their lives.”

Working with the Kentucky State University Agriculture Department, as well as local Extension offices, Martin is growing eight varieties of apples: ‘Honeycrisp’, ‘Snow Sweet’, ‘Grimes Golden’, ‘Empire’, ‘Enterprise’, ‘Arkansas Black’, ‘Fuji’, and ‘Crispin’.

“I like the old heirlooms better, really, but I wanted to offer a mix of fresh-eating and baking apples,” he says.

In addition to apples, they also grow smaller amounts of pears and peaches. A portion of each harvest will be donated to the Lexington Veterans Home.

OPERATION FARM DOG

The Smiths recently visited Martin and his family to present them with their new puppy, Lady Liberty Rose. Martin says he fell in love instantly but quickly adds this is not about him.

“We want her to be therapeutic, but she’s not just there for us,” he says. “When we have visitors, she’s there to lean on. She’s there for the people. That’s her purpose here.”

Smith says Red Hive Golden Retrievers is just a small operation, and their goal is to grow Operation Farm Dog nationally, eventually placing 100 puppies with 100 veteran farmer families each year. They will be calling on American Kennel Club registered sporting and working-class dog breeders around the country to help by donating as many exceptional puppies as they can

Operation Farm Dog awards first dog to farmer-veteran (2019)

Operation Farm Dog awards first dog to farmer-veteran (2019)

Greg Babcock holding dog, Freedom Belle, awarded to him through Operation Farm Dog. He is standing with 2 men and a woman

What began with the idea of breeding high-quality, AKC-registered golden retrievers quickly turned into giving back to those who’ve served the country in the military: by donating a puppy to a veteran who farms.

Lonny Smith and his wife, Kim, co-own Red Hive Golden Retrievers in Bellefontaine, Ohio. The AKC-registered puppies they raise are very light-colored, a shade known as English cream.

Desire to give back to veterans

When they became breeders a few years back, they decided they wanted to provide a service or companion dog to a veteran-based organization, which, in turn, could help identify someone in need.

A friend showed them the Farmer Veteran Coalition website, and it didn’t take long for them to realize  every farm — and in particular, every farmer-veteran — needed a good farm dog.

“We looked at a few videos on their website and knew right away we could help to get a great companion dog with a veteran; and it didn’t have to be a highly trained service dog, but just a loving companion to a good buddy,” Lonny Smith says. “The idea of being able to provide an exceptional puppy to a veteran who chooses to continue to serve the country by helping to ensure our food security made it an easy decision to work with them.”

The Smiths wrote up a proposal and submitted it to the national office of the Farmer Veteran Coalition. The FVC connected Lonny with Nick Babcock, chapter president of Farmer Veteran Coalition of Michigan, which serves more than 500 U.S. veterans involved in agriculture.

“We’re an organization of farmer-veterans who are engaged in all types of agriculture,” says Nick Babcock. “From hoop house production to row crop farming, from livestock to microgreens, from aquaculture to beekeeping, our members are doing all of it. So, as we like to say, we have the opportunity to lay down our combat boots and rifles and pick up muck boots and shovels.

“Any farmer knows we can have long days — and just like in the military, we’re task-oriented, and we’re at it until the day is done. Along with days being long, they can be lonely at times, so when we met with Lonny from Red Hive Golden Retrievers, we knew right away it could be a great opportunity to pair up veterans so they can have a companion and be there for each other, to alleviate any loneliness and isolation that might exist,” Babcock says

In early October, after accepting applications in what they deemed a pilot program, and carefully “vetting the vets,” as Lonny Smith put it, Farmer Veteran Coalition of Michigan and Red Hive Golden Retrievers awarded Freedom’s Belle, the first Operation Farm Dog puppy, to U.S. Army veteran Greg Babcock. Greg, Nick Babcock’s father, turned out to be the best fit among the veterans who went through the vetting process.

Choosing a farmer-veteran

In 1978, Greg Babcock enlisted in the Army as a military police officer, and served 36 years before retiring. During his time in service, he commissioned and served as an operations officer with the Joint Staff at U.S. Northern Command, and was the deputy provost marshal with the National Guard Bureau. He currently raises livestock as part of the family farm.

“After serving in the military, one of the issues I had was some anxiety,” says Greg Babcock. “My wife had been looking for a pup for me for a long time to try and help me cope with that. Belle’s been a godsend for me and our family. We just absolutely love her. She’s been with us for about a month now. She’s a fast learner, she’s growing fast, and she likes to cuddle — which is exactly what I need in dark places.”

One of the things Greg Babcock struggles with is confinement. During his service, he dealt with disaster planning and worse-case scenarios. Even today, he says he’s always looking for it. But with Belle now by his side, he says he doesn’t look for it anymore.

“Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve actually slept with the lights off,” Greg Babcock adds. “Belle’s a blessing to have around. And I’d suggest to all our veterans that if they’re interested, get involved in agriculture, as there are so many opportunities. And reach out to Farmer Veteran Coalition and inquire about Operation Farm Dog. Don’t hesitate to get a companion dog, for they’ll be there in your time of need.”

Red Hive plans future puppy awards

The Smiths at Red Hive Golden Retrievers plan three litters a year, and they intend to provide one puppy from each litter to a farmer-veteran. The Smiths’ goal is to engage other breeders around the country to join forces with them to provide 100 puppies to farmer-veterans nationwide.

“The freedom and prosperity we’re blessed with has largely been won through the dedication and sacrifice of those who serve, or have served, in our military,” says Lonny Smith. “We feel that providing exceptional companion puppies to our great farmer-veterans is something we can do to say thank you for the sacrifices they’ve made to assure the freedom and prosperity we enjoy. We hope other breeders, and even agricultural organizations from across the country, will feel the same and join us in providing a farm buddy to our veterans.”

Because of the complex nature of taking on the responsibility of ownership and care for a dog, Farmer Veteran Coalition of Michigan will have an open application period for Operation Farm Dog. It will expand the program with at least three more AKC-registered golden retrievers in 2020. If you are interested in being considered for one of the companion dogs, contact Farmer Veteran Coalition of Michigan at michigan@farmvetco.org for an application.

Learn more about Operation Farm Dog and see more photos of Freedom’s Belle at redhivegoldenretrievers.comVisit the Farmer Veteran Coalition at farmvetco.org and Farmer Veteran Coalition of Michigan at its Facebook page.

https://www.farmprogress.com/farm-life/operation-farm-dog-awards-first-dog-farmer-veteran

Freedom’s Belle

You can now follow Freedom’s Belle on Facebook

 

Story from Michigan Farm News October 31, 2019

What began with the idea of breeding high-quality AKC registered Golden Retrievers quickly turned into giving back to those who’ve served the country in the military by donating a puppy to a veteran who farms.

Lonny Smith and his wife Kim co-own Red Hive Golden Retrievers in Bellefontaine, Ohio. The AKC registered puppies they raise are very light colored, known as English Cream.

When they became breeders a few years back, they decided they wanted to provide a service or companion dog to a veteran-based organization, who in turn could help identify someone in need.

A friend showed them the Farmer Veteran Coalition website, and it didn’t take long for them to realize every farm, and in particular, farmer-veteran, needed a good farm dog.

“We looked at a few videos on their website and knew right away we could help to get a great companion dog with a veteran, and it didn’t have to be a highly trained service dog, but just a loving companion to a good buddy,” said Lonny Smith. “The idea of being able to provide an exceptional puppy to a veteran who chooses to continue to serve the country by helping to ensure our food security, made it an easy decision to work with them.”

The Smith’s wrote up a proposal and submitted it to the national office of the Farmers Veteran Coalition. In turn, they connected Lonny with Nick Babcock, chapter-president of Farmer Veteran Coalition of Michigan, serving over 500 U.S. veterans involved in agriculture.

“We’re an organization of farmer-veterans who are engaged in all types of agriculture,” said Babcock. “From hoop house production to row crop farming, from livestock to microgreens, from aquaculture to beekeeping, our members are doing all of it. So as we like to say, we have the opportunity to lay down our combat boots and rifles and pick up muck boots and shovels.”

“Any farmer knows, we can have long days, and just like in the military, we’re task oriented, and we’re at it until the day is done. Along with days being long, they can be lonely at times, so when we met with Lonny from Red Hive Golden Retrievers, we knew right away it could be a great opportunity to pair up veterans so they can have a companion and be there for each other, to alleviate any loneliness and isolation that might exist.”

In early October, after accepting applications in what they deemed a pilot program, and carefully “vetting the vets” as Lonny Smith put it, Farmer Veteran Coalition of Michigan and Red Hive Golden Retrievers awarded Freedom’s Belle, the first Operation Farm Dog, to U.S. Army Veteran Greg Babcock.

In 1978, Greg enlisted in the Military Police and served 36 years before retiring. During his time in service, Greg served as an Operations Officer with the Joint Staff at U.S. Northern Command and was the Deputy Provost Marshal with the National Guard Bureau. He currently raises livestock as part of the family farm.

“After serving in the military, one of the issues I had was some anxiety,” said Babcock. “My wife had been looking for a pup for me for a long time to try and help me cope with that. Belle’s been a God-send for me and our family. We just absolutely love her. She’s been with us for about a month now. She’s a fast learner, she’s growing fast, and she’s a cuddler, which is exactly what I need in dark places.”

One of the things Greg struggles with is confinement. During his service, he dealt with disaster planning and worse-case scenarios, so even today, he says he’s always looking for it. But with Belle now by his side, he says he doesn’t look for it anymore.

“Over the last couple of weeks I’ve actually slept with the lights off,” added Greg. “Belle’s a blessing to have around. And I’d suggest to all our veterans that if their interested, get involved in agriculture as there’s so many opportunities. And reach out to Farmer Veteran Coalition and inquire about Operation Farm Dog. Don’t hesitate to get a companion dog, for they’ll be there in your time of need.”

Red Hive Golden Retrievers plans three litters a year and intends on providing one puppy from each to a farmer-veteran. Their goal is to engage other breeders around the country to join forces with them to provide one-hundred puppies to farmer-veterans nationwide.

“The freedom and prosperity we’re blessed with has largely been won through the dedication and sacrifice of those who serve, or have served in our military,” said Smith. “We feel that providing exceptional companion puppies to our great farmer-veterans is something that we can do to say ‘Thank You’ for the sacrifices they’ve made to assure the freedom and prosperity we enjoy. And so we hope other breeders and even agricultural organizations from across the country will feel the same and join us in providing a farm buddy to our veterans.”

Because of the complex nature of taking on the responsibility of ownership and care for a dog, Farmer Veteran Coalition of Michigan will have an open application period for Operation Farm Dog. They’ll expand the program with at least three more AKC registered Golden Retrievers in 2020. If you are interested in being considered for one of the companion dogs, contact Farmer Veteran Coalition of Michigan at michigan@farmvetco.org for an application.

Learn more about Operation “Farm Dog” at redhivegoldenretrievers.com. And check out images

Tractor Supply & Farmer Veteran Coalition honors military vets

In partnership with Farmer Veteran Coalition, Tractor Supply Company hosted and honored 50 military veteran farmers nationwide on Saturday, May 18, which was also Armed Forces Day. Tractor Supply presented a total of $50,000 in awards through FVC’s Farmer Veteran Fellowship Fund — a grant program that helps veterans grow their agricultural businesses.

Each of the 50 veterans received a $1,000 gift card from Tractor Supply and FVC after submitting an essay describing their farm training and experience, personal investment in their farm business, clear need for assistance and vision and goals for their future. The winners, who were invited to their local Tractor Supply store to receive their award, are owners of agricultural businesses in categories such as beekeeping, sustainable gardening, animal care, medicinal crop cultivation and more.

“It is an honor to give back to men and women who have given so much to our country through their service and now to their communities with farming,” said Roc Hodges, who retired as a Master Sergeant in the United States Air Force and currently leads the Tractor Supply Veterans Employee Resource Group. “These military veterans are developing impressive agricultural businesses across the country, and we are both humbled and excited to support each and every one of them through our partnership with FVC.”

In Athens, Tennessee, the local Tractor Supply store honored Marissa Buchanan, who served in the Army from 2009 to 2018 as a Combat Medic. When Buchanan left the military, she opened Buchanan’s Barnyard to raise critical breeds of poultry. As Buchanan’s Barnyard expands, she is welcoming rescued mini pigs for foster and adoption, as well as expanding into animal assisted therapy.

The Kalamazoo, Michigan, Tractor Supply store awarded the Fellowship Fund grant to Jason Scramlin. After serving as a U.S. Marine from 1997 to 2005, Scramlin found his passion for the rural lifestyle and purchased his own farm in 2013 to raise sheep. In just over five years, he has grown his farm from five ewes to 40 ewes and added two rams. He raises them on a rotational pasture management system, which is a sustainable, low-input system that promotes healthy animals and soil.

“The partnership with Tractor Supply Company is so important to our mission of supporting farmer veterans,” said Michael O’Gorman, founder and director of Farmer Veteran Coalition. “We are excited to watch these award winners develop their businesses and change their communities for years to come.”

Each of the 50 veterans demonstrates an ongoing commitment to serving our country in ways that both Tractor Supply and Farmer Veteran Coalition are proud to honor. Learn more about this partnership and the Fellowship Fund by visiting their website.

Senator Stabenow Applauds New Crop Insurance Benefits for Farmer Veterans

WASHINGTON D.C. – U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow, Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, applauded the announcement of new crop insurance benefits for farmers who are recent military veterans. The improvements, which Senator Stabenow authored in the 2018 Farm Bill, include waived fees and new coverage options.

“Veterans in Michigan and throughout the country are choosing to continue their careers of service by farming and helping to feed our families,” said Senator Stabenow. “These new provisions will help farmer veterans access affordable crop insurance so they can protect their farms and their livelihoods.” “

The new benefits originate from provisions in the Farmer Veteran Opportunity Act, a bipartisan bill Senator Stabenow introduced and included in the 2018 Farm Bill, which she co-authored to provide certainty to Michigan farmers. The Farm Bill provisions will provide farmer veterans seeking crop insurance with the following benefits:

  • An exemption from paying an administrative fee for catastrophic and additional coverage policies;
  • 10 % premium discount for additional coverage policies;
  • A better guarantee for the first few years of production;
  • An increase in yield adjustment, from 60 to 80 percent of the applicable transitional yield.

“These new crop insurance benefits will help more farmer veterans protect their farms and recover from unexpected losses,” said Nick Babcock, President of the Farmer Veteran Coalition of Michigan. “I appreciate Senator Stabenow’s work to expand opportunities for Michigan’s farmer veterans so we can build successful careers in agriculture.”

The new benefits are available to farmer veterans who have been discharged from active duty during the past five years and are actively operating a farm. Applications must be completed by June 1, 2019, or the acreage reporting date.

 

https://www.stabenow.senate.gov/news/senator-stabenow-applauds-new-crop-insurance-benefits-for-farmer-veterans

Farmer Veteran Coalition of Michigan hosts Business Workshop

Story by GreenStone Farm Credit Services

Jennifer Whitford presenting at the Farmer Veteran Coalition of Michigan Business Workshop Jan 19 at

From the Battle Fields to the Farm Fields 

Because farmers and military men and women both enjoy the outdoors, have strong work ethics and a drive to serve the community – it’s clear why some returning veterans feel at ease in the farming community. With more than 40 percent of military recruits coming from rural areas, there is a strong need for support of military veterans transitioning to the agriculture industry. The Farmer Veteran Coalition (FVC) was created in 2009 with that mission in mind.

The FVC proudly supports returning or beginning farmers that served our country. It is free for a retired or active military person to become a member and take advantage of the farm business tools provided. The FVC offers fellowship grants, farming resources and a distinguished Homegrown by Heroes label to help veterans’ products stand above the competition. With the help of sponsors like GreenStone, FVC offers educational events providing veterans advice on farm management.

On January 19, the FVC of Michigan equipped dozens of veterans with information on lending options, mental health awareness and farm taxes and bookkeeping at the 2019 Business Workshop. GreenStone employee, Lindsey Bliss, FVC of MI board member since 2017, helped organize the workshop and GreenStone provided funding to offset the cost of the workshop. Six professionals, including GreenStone employees, Jennifer Whitford and Chad Zagar, presented at the workshop.

“Most of the participants in the workshop are beginning farmers and my goal of the presentation was to educate them on things lenders are looking for if they want a first time farm loan,” GreenStone’s vice president of lending, Jennifer says. “I also spent time after the event looking over some of their business plans and talking with them about what they should include or change in their plans.”

Chad, GreenStone’s vice president and managing director of tax and accounting, spoke to the veterans about maintaining basic accounting for their farm. “My presentation focused on the importance of record keeping and keeping good enough financial records that you are able to make sound business decisions,” Chad says. “I talked about not getting overwhelmed and thinking that you need to have perfect records right away. It’s best to be consistent and then make corrections as you go if you see something you want to report differently.”

GreenStone is honored to support FVC’s mission of providing military men and women the education, networking and business tools they need to transition from the military to the agriculture industry.

If you would like to learn more about Farmer Veteran Coalition and the fellowship fund they offer, click here.

Babcock proud to host farmer veterans during FVC national conference

Story by Brian VanOchten

EAGLE – Nick Babcock couldn’t help himself.

As if the 36-year-old husband, father of three children, Michigan State University master’s student, cancer patient and sheep farmer had space for much else in his life, he just couldn’t say no when asked to help serve fellow veterans.

Babcock, president of the Michigan chapter of Farmer Veteran Coalition of America (FVCOA), filled a sudden leadership void atop the organization five months before the 2016 FVC National Stakeholders Conference in East Lansing. The third-annual meeting is being hosted Nov. 30-Dec. 2 at Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center in East Lansing.

“I’m a ‘helps’ guy,” said Babcock, who was named FVC-Michigan president after both his predecessor and board chair resigned in the midst of preparing for the largest gathering of the military and agricultural communities in the nation. “It’s another opportunity to help and serve my brothers and sisters in arms. It’s hard to explain unless you’ve experienced it.

“You already have things in common without even saying hello,” he said of his military brethren. “That’s what makes it such a special bond.”

He shares similar feeling for his fellow farmers.

Babcock, who was retired medically from the U.S. Army in 2013 due to medical issues, is proud to help lead the effort to unite farmer veterans with the agricultural, governmental and nonprofit groups that support them.

“I think it is filling a void,” he said of the conference’s main goal. “There are a lot of veterans out there trying to figure it out as they go. I think the military and agricultural life are so service driven. I think those two things are therapeutic.”

The third-annual conference, whose theme is “United We Farm,” features three days of educational tracks, farm visits, guest panels, distinguished speakers, networking and camaraderie on Michigan State University’s campus.

Michigan Farm Bureau (MFB) is offering scholarships for up to 40 Michigan veterans to attend the conference.

“Michigan Farm Bureau is proud to partner with the Michigan chapter of the Farmer Veteran Coalition and assist those who have served our country,” MFB President Carl Bednarski said. “In 2015, our members adopted policy supporting the Farm Veteran Coalition’s Michigan chapter. Its mission is ‘mobilizing veterans to feed America,’ and we want to help achieve that goal.”

Participants also are eligible for up to 20 RUP credits.

Babcock, a Clinton County Farm Bureau member since 2011, has dedicated much of his life to helping others.

He grew up in Haslett and developed an early affinity for animals as a teen zookeeper at Potter Park Zoo in Lansing. Currently, he has a small flock of 25 sheep (21 for wool, four for meat production) and 18 roosters and hens, which is down from 30, following a recent bout with a skunk, who poached several chickens and all 15 of his turkeys.

“I was in a battle with a skunk for a month. I suffered an attrition rate—he took all of my turkeys this year. But I eventually won,” he said with a smile.

At age 17, Babcock enlisted in the Army, following in his father’s footsteps. He reached the rank of Sgt. 1st Class and deployed to both the U.S. base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in 2003-04, and with the U.S. National Guard in 2005 to led a search-and-rescue team following Hurricane Katrina. Late in 2004, he suffered some health problems.

“The Army medically retired me in 2013 because I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer (December 2004) and type 1 diabetes (January 2005) within two weeks of each other,” he said. “I’m still battling both. I wear an insulin pump—a real-time monitoring system—on my left side and follow up with my doctor every six months.

“I continue to receive care through the Veterans Administration and University of Michigan/Sparrow Hospital as well. I take a high dose of medication to (manage thyroid cancer). I’m doing OK,” he added. “They say it’s one of the most curable cancers, but it’s a forever thing. It’ll involve medication and treatment for the rest of my life.”

Upon re-entering civilian life, Babcock decided to plunge into agriculture.

He earned a bachelor’s degree from MSU in animal science with a focus on beef cattle and sheep management. He spent two years as an intern in the MSU Vets to Ag program, which provides training for veterans with barriers to employment and has partnered with FVC-Michigan to host the national conference this year.

He also served as chapter president of MSU’s Student Veterans of America from 2014-16 and has been instrumental in the MSU Veterans Association while pursuing his master’s degree in forensic entomology.

Ultimately, he’d like to get further involved in livestock production.

His immediate focus is making sure Michigan, one of the first four states in the U.S. to form an FVC state chapter last year, is a proper host for the 2016 FVC National Stakeholders Conference at the end of the month.

“It was always a passion,” Babcock said of serving others, “because the (military) has been so much a part of my life. My dad retired from the Army. I’m a helper, so it was just a natural thing for me to give back to that brotherhood.”

He has earned the admiration of a fellow farmer veteran for those efforts.

“Nick Babcock has done an outstanding job of stepping up and handling the position of chapter president,” MFB West Regional Representative, FVC-Michigan Board Member and former Marine Jason Scramlin said. “His leadership has kept our group together and helped sharpen our focus onto more realistic and relevant goals.

“As a state chapter, approaching our one-year anniversary, we have a lot to be proud of, and hosting the national conference is just another feather in our cap.”

Interested veterans can visit farmvetco.org/fvsc/ for more information about the agenda, registration and accommodations. To apply for scholarships and register for the conference, please contact the FVC-Michigan chapter at FVCMichigan@gmail.com.

https://www.michiganfarmnews.com/babcock-proud-to-host-farmer-veterans-during-fvc-national-conference

Geared to Give program- Jason Scramlin

Geared to Give program- Jason Scramlin

People don’t normally equate Marines with gentleness and peace, but it doesn’t take long at the Split Rail Farm to feel how its gentle, rolling hills lend a measure of tranquility to all who visit and work there. From the ewe who wants to be petted like a dog to the dog who sits patiently for cameras, it’s almost an intrusion to hear farm owner Jason Scramlin’s new Kubota fire up and get to work.

Almost.

Hearing it hum was music to Scramlin’s ears, especially since it was donated as part of Kubota’s Geared to Give program, in partnership with the Farmer Veteran Coalition (FVC).

The tractor, a Kubota L-series compact model, came complete with a front end loader; canopy from aftermarket supplier Firebird Products; and a Land Pride rotary cutter, a gift from Bronsink and Bos, the Kubota dealer in Mattawan which services Scramlin’s territory. It was all pulled together by the Kubota Tractor Corp., in cooperation with the Farmer-Veteran Coalition.

The mission of Farmer Veteran Coalition (FVC) is mobilizing veterans to feed America. FVC works to develop a new generation of farmers and food leaders and expand viable employment and career opportunities through the collaboration of the farming and military communities. Through mentorship, peer support and career counseling, FVC supports veterans returning to or beginning careers in the food and farming industry.

Scramlin left the family farm in 1997 to enlist in the U.S. Marine Corps right out of high school. While he was stationed in 29 Palms he deployed to Iraq and twice to Okinawa, Japan, serving as a Fire Direction Controlman with India Battery 3rd Battalion 11th Marines Field Artillery Unit.

Scramlin reenlisted to accept an assignment to Marine Security Guard Duty, where he served 30 months overseas as an embassy guard at several U.S. Embassies. He was honorably discharged in 2005 and immediately began school at MSU to get his animal science degree.

“We could not think of a better representative of the (agriculture) community in Michigan than Jason,” said FVC general counsel Jason Foscolo. “While Jason is too modest to tell you, as a fellow Marine I can tell you that only the top two to three percent of Marines are qualified to have that (embassy) gig, so he has an impressive military resume behind him. Equally impressive is the way he’s so rapidly integrated into the agriculture community here in your state. He’s availed himself of just about every resource he can get into, and has put himself on the pathway to success. He’s a robust participant in Farm Bureau, a bedrock partner of ours, and we couldn’t have picked a better representative of the FVC.”

Scramlin’s participation in Farm Bureau goes deeper, though. He’s Michigan Farm Bureau’s regional representative for the West Region. He and wife Jordan own and manage a flock of 30 commercial ewes. They breed and lamb their ewes annually, in addition to producing their own hay. They currently sell their lamb products for meat and wool, and have their sights set on expanding the operation as demand continues to grow.

When he was passed the keys to his new tractor, Scramlin responded typically, with humor and humility.

“My mom and dad taught me how to work hard, and the Marine Corps taught me how to show up on time,” he said. “When I think about life in the Service and life to this point, it’s all about community and cultivation; cultivating relationships with animals, land, customers and community. Having spent time with the folks from Kubota the last two days shows how committed they are to community and farming. … Also, having the Farmer Veteran Coalition out to provide guidance and leadership, it all means so much. It’s quite overwhelming, and I’m truly, from the bottom of my heart, grateful.”

Scramlin’s hands-on approach is what made his application stand out. “As a third-generation farmer armed with a business plan, Jason is exactly the type of farmer veteran our organization helps to serve,” said Michael O ‘Gorman, executive director of FVC. “He is connected to his community and committed to growing his family-owned business into a thriving success, and we are proud to have him as our first ‘Geared to Give’ recipient in Michigan.”

Learn more about the Farmer Veteran Coalition.

For more information about Kubota’s involvement with the FVC, visit Kubota Cares or Kubota.

Learn more about Bronsink and Bos,