Published Aug 15, 2011

PFI Members Support Veterans Coming Home to Farm

By Luke Gran

This blog is from a guest contributor, Annie Gardiner who volunteers for the Farmer Veteran Coalition.

Tyler Albers is a Marine Corps veteran and has served three tours in Iraq. Now he has a new mission—starting an organic vegetable and livestock Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm in his home state of Iowa. And it means the world to him that PFI members have his back.

Albers was one of 15 veterans gathered in central Iowa this July for Coming Home to Farm, a 2.5-day retreat on sustainable and organic farming. The event was hosted by the Farmer Veteran Coalition, a national project out of Davis, CA, that connects veterans with agriculture, and was sponsored by PFI-member, Blue River Hybrids of Kelley, IA. Participating veterans toured livestock, grain, and vegetable farms, listened to presentations, and gained plenty of insights from generous and seasoned farmers.



Tyler talked with Barney Bahrenfuse at B&B Farms in Grinnell, IA about sustainable livestock production (and about Barney’s tractors). With a year-and-a-half remaining at the University of Minnesota, Tyler is already writing his business plan so he can hit the ground running. In fact, after the retreat, he paid a visit to his family in Waverly, IA, pitched his idea, and secured some startup acreage. Go Tyler!






Maury Johnson, founder of Blue River Hybrids and Coming Home to Farm sponsor, saluted the participating veterans for their decision to pursue careers in agriculture, and called on their leadership. “We can’t continue to do some of the things that we’ve done on America’s farms, and you are in a great position to lead organic and sustainable agriculture, and make valuable contributions to farming and to our country.”

Thank you, Blue River Hybrids!








PFI Member and fellow veteran, Jeff Hafner of Panora, IA, talked candidly about getting his new aquaponics operation off the ground. Two of the participating veterans are preparing to launch an urban aquaponics operation, so this couldn’t have been more timely. The group also spent time with Earl Hafner, and enjoyed an amazing dinner thanks to the talented chef, Donna Pritzgintas.






Andy Dunham of Grinnell Heritage Farm in Grinnell, IA, discussed the business of farming before taking the guys out to the field. Here we’re admiring Andy’s kale while he talks about weed control and pest management on the farm.







The veterans received a lesson on raising broilers from Suzanne Costello at B&B Farms in Grinnell, IA. Here Jeff Jeffers, Bronze Star veteran with the US Army, is feeding one of the flocks.






Maury Wills of Wills Family Orchard in Adel, IA, talked straight about staying ahead of pests as an organic farmer. Here he’s talking about Kaolin Clay. Maury also introduced the vets to agritourism as a viable business strategy, and then everyone got a hay ride back to the water cooler!

After attending Coming Home to Farm, Tyler Albers says he feels, “ten times more confident” about launching his career in sustainable farming. “Between the Iowa farmers I met and the Farmer Veteran Coalition, there’s a lot of support out there and that means a lot.”

To Blue River Hybrids, the National Center for Appropriate Technology, Steve Smith and Sally Wilson Smith, Marshalltown, IA, and to all the PFI members who participated in Coming Home to Farm, great thanks for your time, expertise, and offer of continued mentorship. To get involved with the Farmer Veteran Coalition as a mentor, donor, or farmer veteran, email or call 530-756-1395.

Annie Gardiner is a volunteer for the Farmer Veteran Coalition and President of Green Penguin Communications.

The Farmer Veteran Coalition (Davis, California) is national project that connects veterans with agricultural jobs, training programs, and mentoring—and in turn introduces the sustainable farming community to the next generation of farmers.