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.
#57 – Joshua Morris (US Army) – Cold Spring Farm
46:49If 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!
#56 – Liz Riffle (US Navy) – Riffle Farms
43:13"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!
#55 – Malissa Burgess – Analytic Acquisitions
51:56This 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!
#54 – Episode 2 – Sawyer Clark (US Army) – Gold Leaf Farming
39:29This 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!
#53 – Sawyer Clark (US Army) – Gold Leaf Farming
33:47"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.
#52 – AJ Richards – (ANG) – Sustenance Earth
41:57"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
#51 – Stephen Carpenter – Farmers’ Legal Action Group (FLAG)
45:33This 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 - [email protected] FVC Website w/ UDSA Discrimination Financial Assistance Program Additional information - https://farmvetco.org/dfap-22007/
#50 – Monica Rainge & Jeanette Lombardo – USDA and Farmer Veteran Coalition
40:33This 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.
#49 – Nicole Cleggs-Burns (USAR) – USDA
50:23"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.
#48 – Reece Lodder (USMC) – Friesla
42:31Our 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.