An organic farmer from California has formed a nonprofit to help veterans transition to life after service in an unexpected way – through farming.
Launched by Michael O'Gorman in 2008, the Farmer Veteran Coalition pairs returning servicemembers with experienced farmers, giving military veterans the chance to hone their agriculture skills. The nonprofit also offers a job-placement program, as well as grants for fledgling agriculture entrepreneurs, according to AARP The Magazine.
Through this newfound mentorship, O'Gorman hopes that veterans will be able to heal the mental wounds from their time in combat and find a peaceful after-service career in farming.
"It seemed like there was something that drew people to the concept – something to do with the healing of the veterans, something to do with maybe healing for everybody," O'Gorman told the magazine. "You go back to the Bible and you see the verse about turning swords into plowshares. There's a power in the transition between those two things."
O'Gorman added that the nonprofit has gained popularity over the years, with about 100 veterans inquiring about the farming mentorship each month. The organization currently works with veterans in 48 states.
A career in agriculture may be a good fit for many veterans, considering their high levels of unemployment in the U.S. According to The Washington Post, the unemployment rate for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans is around 10 percent – the highest out of any veterans group.