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Vets In Ag Podcast

We explore the stories and insights from the military veteran and supporter communities who are leading the way for vets in agribusiness, agtech, and agri-preneurship. We swap stories, talk ag, and show how grass-roots nature of the ag community can be a natural fit for the military veteran.

Latest Episode

#57 – Joshua Morris (US Army) – Cold Spring Farm

If you can identify the most worthy goal for you personally, why would you do anything else? This is the fourth episode in our multi-part series sponsored by Farmer Veteran Coalition (FVC), a national non-profit organization mobilizing veterans to feed America and transition from military service to careers in agriculture. This series will showcase unique partnerships between FVC and several organizations offering programs and support for military veterans in agriculture. Our guest today is Joshua Morris, owner/operator at Cold Spring Farm in the Missouri Ozarks. He’s also a Farmer Veteran Coalition member, Fellowship Fund recipient and Kubota’s Geared to Give recipient. Joshua has worn many hats throughout his military career and into the agriculture: Parachutist, Engineer, Real Estate Investor, Bison Rancher, Show Goat Expert, Cattlemen, Published Author, and YouTuber. We get into all of this during today’s episode and Joshua shares some fantastic information about how to create niche agricultural opportunities wherever you settle. And the Farmer Veteran Coalition has been along for the entire ride the entire time!

February 8 • 46m 49s

Episodes

#57 – Joshua Morris (US Army) – Cold Spring Farm cover art

#57 – Joshua Morris (US Army) – Cold Spring Farm

If you can identify the most worthy goal for you personally, why would you do anything else? This is the fourth episode in our multi-part series sponsored by Farmer Veteran Coalition (FVC), a national non-profit organization mobilizing veterans to feed America and transition from military service to careers in agriculture. This series will showcase unique partnerships between FVC and several organizations offering programs and support for military veterans in agriculture. Our guest today is Joshua Morris, owner/operator at Cold Spring Farm in the Missouri Ozarks. He’s also a Farmer Veteran Coalition member, Fellowship Fund recipient and Kubota’s Geared to Give recipient. Joshua has worn many hats throughout his military career and into the agriculture: Parachutist, Engineer, Real Estate Investor, Bison Rancher, Show Goat Expert, Cattlemen, Published Author, and YouTuber. We get into all of this during today’s episode and Joshua shares some fantastic information about how to create niche agricultural opportunities wherever you settle. And the Farmer Veteran Coalition has been along for the entire ride the entire time!

February 8 • 46m 49s
#56 – Liz Riffle (US Navy) – Riffle Farms cover art

#56 – Liz Riffle (US Navy) – Riffle Farms

"I try to live everyday to the fullest" Our guest this week is Liz Riffle, owner/operator at Riffle Farms, the first commercial bison operation in the state of West Virginia authorized to field harvest animals for sale as individual cuts. Liz’s journey from growing up in a small-town in New Hampshire after the fast-paced life of moving around the country with her Navy pilot father and nursing mother is so relatable for many veterans! After being assigned to the Wounded Warrior unit at Walter Reed as a 22-year old nurse in the middle of two wars, Liz managed to reach back to her time growing up with horses as a way to cope with the difficulties of this assignment. She also met her husband, Jimmie, here and after 8 years in the Navy, set off as a trail blazer into the field of commercial bison production. This episode is all about that journey – what it's like to raise bison, the regulatory and logistical challenges of starting something so nuanced, and real conversations about holistic management and farm profitability. Liz is such a great orator that I hope you find this conversation as interesting and engaging as I did. Enjoy!

January 17 • 43m 13s
#55 – Malissa Burgess – Analytic Acquisitions cover art

#55 – Malissa Burgess – Analytic Acquisitions

This is the third episode in our multi-part series sponsored by Farmer Veteran Coalition (FVC), a national non-profit organization mobilizing veterans to feed America and transition from military service to careers in agriculture. This series will showcase unique partnerships between FVC and several organizations offering programs and support for military veterans in agriculture. Our guest for this episode with Malissa Burgess, an Assistant Manager with Analytic Acquisitions. Malissa is working as a small business vendor contracted by the USDA to implement the Discrimination Financial Assistance Program. Based in Katy, Malissa is working throughout the great state of Texas conducting outreach and technical assistance for farmers and ranchers applying for the program. If you’re interested in the applying for the program or have already started applying, but are stuck at certain parts of the application, Malissa does a great job of condensing this application process into digestible parts with practical ways to navigate each step. Enjoy!

December 19 • 51m 56s
#54 – Episode 2 – Sawyer Clark (US Army) – Gold Leaf Farming cover art

#54 – Episode 2 – Sawyer Clark (US Army) – Gold Leaf Farming

This is the second installment in our two-part episode with Sawyer Clark from Gold Leaf Farming. In the previous episode, Sawyer and I talked about his early farming experiences in Oregon, his activity duty Army time, and his transition from military service into business school before landing at Gold Leaf. In this episode, Sawyer and I dive into the details about Gold Leaf Farming: Who they are What they do Why they do it the way they do, and How they approach both farmland investment and management. It’s a unique position they sit in – both investor and manager – but it creates a sort of “vertical integration” within the farmland management space that sets them aside from their peers. Their long-term vision, ability to invest in that vision, and skill to make that vision a reality are things Gold Leaf does quite well. Enjoy!

December 8 • 39m 29s
#53 – Sawyer Clark (US Army) – Gold Leaf Farming cover art

#53 – Sawyer Clark (US Army) – Gold Leaf Farming

"Every job is a people job" Our guest this week is Sawyer Clark. Sawyer is a former Army intelligence officer and the Director of Asset Management at Gold Leaf Farming. In this capacity, Sawyer leads a team that farms ~5,800 acres of pistachios, almonds, and dates all the way from northern California to Yuma, Arizona. Since its inception six years ago, Gold Leaf has grown to 85 full-time employees, 27 farms, and more than 12,000 acres.   From his time growing up in Oregon farming blueberries and hazelnuts to a short but meaningful career in the Army, Sawyer never really struggled with a lack of purpose like many veterans. Sure, he had several “what’s next” moments, but that uncertainty, at least to me, never seemed to linger much for him. Before leaving the Army, a small side hustle selling ammunition from his apartment seemed like a great way to explore business. Next was a stint at Stanford for his MBA where he spent less than three months wondering what might be next before landing a job at Gold Leaf even before graduating. Through all of those experiences and into Gold Leaf, Sawyer never lost track of the fact that every job in a people job, but especially in agriculture. There were so many great lessons learned from Sawyer’s early career and unique aspects to Gold Leaf’s business that we decided to make this interview into two episodes! Enjoy this first installment that dives deeper into Sawyer’s background before Gold Leaf.

November 20 • 33m 47s
#52 – AJ Richards – (ANG) – Sustenance Earth cover art

#52 – AJ Richards – (ANG) – Sustenance Earth

"Remember that you will become like the five people you spend the most time with." Our guest this week is AJ Richards. AJ is a combat veteran, entrepreneur, and CEO of Sustenance Earth, an early-stage SAAS marketplace that plans to connect consumers directly to local food producers, starting with beef. His passion for ag stems from his family ranching background in Southern Utah, followed by an enlistment in the Army National Guard and a deployment to Iraqi from 2005-2006. Like many veterans, AJ struggled to find his purpose following military service, spending time selling pest control products, working in the oil field, self-development coaching, managing a USDA beef processing plant, and starting a CrossFit style fitness competition. The quote above comes from a realization during this search that he was not surrounded by the type of people who would have a positive impact on this life. So he made a change. In this episode, AJ and I discuss the myriad of business opportunities he’s been a part of, some of them unsuccessful, and the lessons learned from those experiences. It was enjoyable following this story during our conversation where he never lost sight of his desire to be back in agriculture. Sustenance Earth was born out of those experiences as well as the struggles we all saw with the food supply chain during COVID. Listen in as AJ describes his path to be the “Airbnb” for the food supply chain. You can follow AJ on LinkedIn, Instagram, and TikTok. He's also started a discord group geared towards helping producers find interested buyers. The group can be found here - www.feedthepeoplebythepeople.com

October 16 • 41m 57s
#51 – Stephen Carpenter – Farmers’ Legal Action Group (FLAG) cover art

#51 – Stephen Carpenter – Farmers’ Legal Action Group (FLAG)

This is the second episode in the multi-part series sponsored by Farmer Veteran Coalition (FVC), a national non-profit organization mobilizing veterans to feed America and transition from military service to careers in agriculture. Our guest this week is Stephen Carpenter. Stephen a graduate of Stanford Law School and the Deputy Director and Senior Staff Attorney for Farmers’ Legal Action Group (FLAG). At FLAG, Stephen focuses on disaster assistance, federal farm programs, sustainable agriculture, and of course, discrimination in agricultural lending. In this episode, Stephen and I get into his upbringing on a dairy farm western Missouri and like many kids who grew up on a dairy, his fond memories of that time are mostly in retrospect. We talk about his father’s time as a Korean war veteran and how as a young adult during the farming crisis, Stephen recalls the difficulty of that part of his family’s farm. It was this experience that began to lay the groundwork for what is clearly a passion of Stephen’s – helping those in need. We take a deeper dive into the USDA’s Discrimination Financial Assistance Program – what classifies as discrimination, who are these 3rd party groups who will make the final determination on applications, how the applications should be written, what type of evidence you should present, how awardees will be taxed, and much much more. Enjoy! Farmers' Legal Action Group (FLAG) - www.flaginc.org FVC Email Support - support@farmvetco.org FVC Website w/ UDSA Discrimination Financial Assistance Program Additional information - https://farmvetco.org/dfap-22007/

August 29 • 45m 33s
#50 – Monica Rainge & Jeanette Lombardo – USDA and Farmer Veteran Coalition cover art

#50 – Monica Rainge & Jeanette Lombardo – USDA and Farmer Veteran Coalition

This is the first episode in another multi-part series sponsored by Farmer Veteran Coalition (FVC), a national non-profit organization mobilizing veterans to feed America and transition from military service to a career in agriculture. This series will showcase unique partnerships between FVC and several organizations offering programs and support for military veterans in agriculture. Our guests this week are Monica Rainge and Jeanette Lombardo. Monica is serving on the leadership team for the USDA’s Section 22007 efforts of the Inflation Reduction Act to implement programs at the USDA, specifically the Discrimination Financial Assistance Program. Jeanette is the Executive Director of FVC, leading their Waco Texas based team in support of their 40,000-member organization across the United States. This episode is chock-full of information about a forthcoming financial assistance program offered by the USDA focused on farmers who have been discriminated against by the USDA’s loan programs in the past. A unexpected turn of events, I know, but it showed me that even an organization as large as the USDA can admit when it needs make right some of the wrongs of the past. While the application window and standards are still being finalized, you’ll want to have a listen before you apply to better understand the origins of this program and who the USDA considers an ideal candidate. Jeanette and Moncia do an excellent job talking about what this program means to them and why the partnership was formed between the USDA and FVC. Stay tuned to the end where they describe recent scams out there perpetrated by law firms and others looking to take advantage of future applicants.

July 7 • 40m 33s
#49 – Nicole Cleggs-Burns (USAR) – USDA cover art

#49 – Nicole Cleggs-Burns (USAR) – USDA

"I help people that have a dream to get into farming that could not get this opportunity elsewhere." Our guest this week is Nicole Cleggs-Burns, a Farm Loan Chief at USDA Farm Service Agency. At the USDA, Nicole directs and advises on farm loan programs administered through Service Centers throughout Alabama and works directly with farmers to help them navigate the loan programs offered through the USDA. She was fortunate enough to follow two dreams at the same time – a career in the medical field through the military and agriculture. That good fortunate has followed her forward where she still serves as a reservist and a full-time farm loan chief today. There is so much information in this episode about the types of loans available through the USDA Farm Service Agency, applicant criteria, flexible repayment options, etc…all seasoned with Nicole’s personal advice and experience. If you’re a beginning farmer or in the midst of family succession planning and transition, you won’t want to miss this episode. Stay tuned to the end where she describes another element of her career and family life that makes her accomplishments that much more impressive.

June 27 • 50m 23s
#48 – Reece Lodder (USMC) – Friesla cover art

#48 – Reece Lodder (USMC) – Friesla

Our guest this week is Reece Lodder, Head of Sales & Marketing at Friesla, a Washington-based company providing onsite, USDA- approved, fully customizable meat processing systems. With consumer demands for locally raised meat products rising, Friesla’s customizable and modular systems allow farmers and ranchers to have complete control over onsite meat processing – from slaughter to sale. Between serving in public relations with the Marine Corps, the loss of a friend in combat, and navigating his family through his wife’s battle with brain cancer, Reece has gained a clarity in his calling: caring for others. This drive to help cattle producers define opportunities and craft solutions best for their businesses is evident throughout our conversation. Truly one of the finest people I’ve had the privilege of meeting in a long time.

April 11 • 42m 31s
#47 – Keith King and Tyler Evans (US Marine Corps) cover art

#47 – Keith King and Tyler Evans (US Marine Corps)

"You just gotta do it. Do the research, do the best you can, then just go." A sentiment shared by many entrepreneurs as they manage multiple careers and the uncertainty of starting a new business. This is the third and final episode in our three-part series in partnership with Farmer Veteran Coalition (FVC). This series showcases partnerships between FVC and organizations offering programs in agriculture tailored for military veterans. We interview stakeholders within the organization as well as a military veteran who participated in its programs. This week our guests are Keith King, Founder and CEO at the National Veteran Business Development Council (NVBDC) and Tyler Evans, US Marine Corps veteran Founder of Brookside Plant Farm. The NVBDC is a national non-profit focused on certifying veteran-owned businesses for the purposes of connecting them with their corporate members to pursue commercial opportunities. Tyler is currently working in cyber security but plans to leverage his certification from the NVBDC to grow his nursery business in the coming years. You’ll hear a lot about the entrepreneurial spirit in this episode, which is of course important when starting a business, but the humility through which Keith and Tyler communicate their own personal uncertainties around starting businesses is as equally important. Stay tuned for more on the NVBDC, how much it costs, how to quality, etc and learn from Tyler as he lays out his path into the nursery business in real-time. For more information about NVBDC, visit www.nvbdc.org.  You can reach Keith on his LinkedIn profile here (https://www.linkedin.com/in/keithkingassociates/) or by email at kking@nvbdc.org Tyler’s nursery business, Brookside Plant Farms, can be found at www.brooksideplantfarm.com. Product and details are forthcoming! This material is based upon work supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture under Agreement No. 2022-70416-37277.

March 20 • 31m 44s
#46 – Dave Carter and Marvin Frink (US Army) cover art

#46 – Dave Carter and Marvin Frink (US Army)

This is the second episode in our three-part series in partnership with Farmer Veteran Coalition (FVC). This series showcases partnerships between FVC and organizations offering programs in agriculture tailored for military veterans. We interview stakeholders within the organization as well as a military veteran who participated in its programs. This week our guests are Dave Carter, Director of Regional Technical Assistance Coordination for the Flower Hill Institute and Marvin Frink, US Army veteran and Founder of Briarwood Cattle Farm and Briarwood Customs Meats. Both from humble beginnings in rural America, Dave found his passion for agriculture through journalism and an intentional choice to pursue non-commoditized meat production. He later found commonalities between the tight knit group of families he grew up with and the military veterans he’s fortunate to work with today through a partnership with FVC. After a nearly 30 year career of service, Marvin’s life was almost cut short by his own hand before his father and a Vietnam veteran and cattle farmer turned him onto the healing properties and lifestyle of cattle rearing. The Farmer Veteran Coalition gave him his start and continues to provide the framework, support and branding required to take the Briarwood brand to the next level. You don’t want to miss this episode where we talk about Briarwood’s unique strategy for making their beef stand-out and Dave’s lifetime of insights packed into a single episode! For more information about the Flower Hill Institute and how to apply for technical assistance, visit www.flowerhill.institute or apply directly to the USDA’s Meat and Poultry Processing Capacity Technical Assistance (MPPTA) Program here.   Marvin Frink and Briarwood Cattle Farms and Custom Meats can be found at www.briarwoodcattlefarm.com This material is based upon work supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture under Agreement No. 2022-70416-37277.

March 6 • 54m 45s
#45 – Curtis Mahnken and Eric Zirbes (USMC) cover art

#45 – Curtis Mahnken and Eric Zirbes (USMC)

We are thrilled to announce a partnership with Farmer Veteran Coalition (FVC) and the Vets In Ag Podcast! This is the first episode in a three-part series which showcases partnerships between FVC and organizations offering programs in agriculture tailored for military veterans. We will interview stakeholders within the organization as well as military veterans who participated in its programs. Our first episode features Curtis Mahnken, an Extension Economist with the Center for Farm Financial Management (CFFM) at the University of Minnesota and Eric Zirbes, a Marine Corps veteran, 5th generation farmer, and owner/operator at Zirbes Family Farms in Melrose, Minnesota. In this episode, we cover everything from transitioning farm records from pen and paper to digital to how to find niche markets for products based on market trends and your own personal passions. For more information about the Center for Farm Financial Management's Virtual Business Management Program, contact Curtis Mahnken at cmahnken@umn.edu or visit https://z.umn.edu/VFBM-Interest. The pilot program is available virtually to qualified veterans and members of Farmer Veteran Coalition for only $100. Eric Zirbes and the Zirbes Family Farms beef can be found on Facebook or online at www.ez5angusbeef.com. This material is based upon work supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture under Agreement No. 2022-70416-37277.

February 20 • 48m 13s
#44 – Chip Perrin (USMC) & David Billings (US Army) – Coastal Plains Meat Company cover art

#44 – Chip Perrin (USMC) & David Billings (US Army) – Coastal Plains Meat Company

Our guests this week are Chip Perrin and David Billings, Owner and Executive Board member with Coastal Plains Meat Company based in Eunice, Louisiana. As the largest harvest facility in Louisiana with a growing direct-to-consumer ecommerce platform and customer processing capability, Chip and David are working to solve a processing bottleneck in the state of Louisiana for Louisiana producers. Their joint backgrounds in military service and cattle production provide them a level of leadership and practical experience not typically found in the localized meat processing/packaging sector. In this episode, the three of us get into: Their military backgrounds and serendipitous meeting at a young entrepreneurs’ conference in Houston Consumer preferences pushing against the traditional business models of middlemen choosing what they can buy from the grocery story and more towards direct from the farm with specialized preferences like “grass finished” or “all natural” The feedback loop from a facility like Coastal Plains to the producer regarding things like yield and quality data, which will help them make better decisions about their genetics and breeding programs The educational role Coastal Plains is providing in helping their producers better understand consumer preferences, which will ultimately determine their process. The origin of their ecommerce platform from a small pilot program in a targeted market segment to a reliable revenue stream shipping across the state. Enjoy!

December 5 • 41m 30s
#43 – Kris Wilson (ARNG/US Army) – Rockside Ranch cover art

#43 – Kris Wilson (ARNG/US Army) – Rockside Ranch

Our guest this week took us to a place we don’t usually go on the podcast. Yes, he’s a veteran and yes he’s involved in agriculture, but his mission focuses on using agriculture as a means to heal men in crisis. Kris Wilson is the Logistics Manager for Rockside Ranch, a working ranch in a rural community aimed at helping young men overcome crisis and live the life they were created to live. Kris served 23 years with the US Army National Guard where he led and supervised hundreds of soldiers over his career, including multiple combat theaters. Upon retirement, he and his family moved to Scott Valley after hearing a calling to ministry. At Rockside, Kris uses his background and training to develop leadership, organization, and effective teamwork . In addition, Kris is actively pursuing a Theological Seminary degree. In this episode, Kris and I get into: His military career spanning four deployments to two theaters of war and a near-death experience The Hand of God at work in his life setting the conditions for his retirement from the Army and move back to California and into a mission at Rockside Ranch Rockside's mission of “talking life into a group of rough men” using agriculture as their medium for change The principles of stewardship and the values that can impart on young men who have taken that for granted most of their life Enjoy!

June 15 • 51m 53s
#42 – Margo Hale – NCAT – Armed to Farm cover art

#42 – Margo Hale – NCAT – Armed to Farm

Margo Hale is the SE regional Director at the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT). Since 1976, NCAT has been helping people build resilient communities through local and sustainable solutions that reduce poverty, strengthen self-reliance, and protect natural resources. From 2011 to today, Margo has led NCAT’s efforts to train military veterans interested in agriculture through Armed to Farm, NCAT’s sustainable agriculture training program for military veterans. She has worked in the fields of sustainable livestock production, beginning farmer training, and regional sustainable agriculture outreach. In this episode, Margo and I get into: Margo’s upbringing on a dairy in northern Arkansas The realities of starter farms as sources of family income The linkage between NCAT and the Farmer Veteran Coalition The origins of NCAT’s Armed to Farm program and all its details Common missteps veterans make starting a farm for the first time How to image your way through taking the next step to scaling your farming business

May 11 • 46m 42s
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