From vegetable growers and livestock producers, to agritourism operators and farm artisans, farmer veterans can be found throughout all types of agriculture in the Volunteer state. As you honor the brave men and women who have served our country this Veterans Day, you have the opportunity to support a farmer veteran near you.
According to the national Census of Agriculture, Tennessee has more than 14,000 farmers with military service. One of them is Dusken Sledge, owner of Wake Robin Homestead in Blount County. Sledge served in the Army National Guard, and now produces a variety of agricultural products for the public and local restaurants.
"We produce honey from our apiaries along with eggs from our chickens and quail," Sledge said. "We grow a variety of perennial fruits. Our fruit trees, bushes, and vines currently consist of apples, plums, peaches, mulberries, blueberries, blackberries, elderberries, strawberries, and grapes."
Bright Hill Bed and Barn owners Rick and Karyn Walker served in the Air Force for 22 years. They visited Tennessee a few times between assignments and loved everything about the state. "We dreamed of living on a farm after retirement," Karyn said. "We have six acres in DeKalb County where we grow blueberries and sell eggs from our chicken flock."
The Farmer Veteran Coalition is a valuable resource for farmer veterans. This national nonprofit organization offers the Farmer Veteran Fellowship Fund grant program, which provides direct financial assistance to veterans who just starting out in farming and ranching.
If you want to support farmer veterans the next time you buy groceries, look for the Homegrown By Heroes label. Homegrown By Heroes is the Farmer Veteran Coalition branding program that highlights agricultural products produced by U.S. military veterans. It can be found on more than 70 food items throughout Tennessee.
"Tennessee is home to so many people who serve their country and community," Agriculture Commissioner Charlie Hatcher, D.V.M. said. "Our veterans have sacrificed for us. We are grateful for their service and proud to see them succeed in agriculture."