WASHINGTON – They are literally turning their swords into plowshares.
A college near Philadelphia is offering veterans who have laid down their arms a chance to go to farm school.
Delaware Valley College recently launched a one-year certificate program in organic farming that offers vets free tuition and a stipend to cover books, rent and other basic living expenses. It’s funded by the Department of Veteran’s Affairs, which has designated Delaware Valley as a “yellow ribbon school” authorized to offer expanded benefits under the GI Bill.
WTOP Garden Editor Mike McGrath says the Veteran Organic Farming Program “is amazing, it’s great, and it was too long in coming.”
He says, “Every veteran that is having trouble trying to figure out what to do with themselves now that they are back home, should really consider it.”
The course of study was developed by Dennis Riling, a former Marine, to prepare vets for good jobs in an industry that is growing by leaps and bounds.
Students take 36 hours of credits at the Doylestown, Pa., campus before heading off to get their “field training” at the Rodele Institute – a 300-acre farm in Kutztown, Pa.
McGrath says it is indeed a win-win: “We know how much trouble our returning veterans have finding meaningful work when they finish their service, and here is a real need.”
He says organic faming is growing at a massive rate – almost 10 per cent a year – and one of the biggest complaints he hears from organic farmers is there are not enough people trained to take over the business.
Although non-veterans can apply for the program, the focus is on those who have served in the military, including wounded warriors.
“Farming accomodates everyone,” says McGrath, who stresses there are no limitations.