Michael O’Gorman believes deeply in American agriculture and the rich reward it can give to all who take part in it. He is committed to sharing that opportunity with the nation’s men and women returning from military service in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Michael’s first step in realizing his goal was organizing a gathering for farmers in California’s Central Coast to discuss creating farm jobs for returning veterans. In 2008, invigorated with passion to help this important group of American citizens as well as the critical American agriculture industry, Michael left a nearly forty-year career in production agriculture to begin working full-time for the Farmer Veteran Coalition (FVC) he founded.
“I believe deeply in American agriculture and believe it poses infinite opportunities for those that are willing to work hard and stay with it,” says Michael. “Men and women who are coming out of the military have already proven their willingness to work hard and they have enough life experience under their belts to be able to follow through once they decide to go into the agricultural field.”
Under Michael's leadership, FCV's list of successes has grown rapidly:
In 2011, Michael proposed a micro-loan program to the USDA which was approved as a way to help beginning farmers, including veterans, begin their farm careers. In 2012, FVC began advocating for a new office of Military Agricultural Liaison in the USDA, the recognition of veteran farmers, the expansion of the micro-loan program and numerous efforts to give veterans preferential access to conservation programs. All were written into the Agricultural Act of 2014.
In 2013, FVC entered into milestone agreements with the American Farm Bureau Federation, Farm Credit, AgrAbility, and National Farmers Union for funding to strengthen and expand the organization’s programs. The most notable of these programs is Homegrown By Heroes (HBH), initially a project of the Kentucky Department of Agriculture but since expanded to the entire nation. Through the HBH program, farmer veterans are able to label their products and their sales locations with a logo that identifies them as military veterans and allows American consumers to support them with their purchases. In 2014, FVC sponsored the first National Farmer Veteran Stakeholders Conference, and in 2015 launched Farmer Veteran Peer Network Project, the first national program for beginning farmer veterans.
Since its inception, FVC has provided education and training to more than 2,500 farmer veterans and has more than 7,000 members; nearly 350 new veterans join each month. Michael has been personally responsible for conceiving, developing and managing the organization and its programs, and leading the national movement to mobilize veterans to feed America.
Michael says, “I would like to create an organization that will be around in 30 years. No one needs to know who started it or when, but every man or woman who goes off to war will know the farming community is there to embrace them and help them find peace and productivity on the land when they come home.”
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