SIDNEY TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — A West Michigan veteran turned farmer is now helping other veterans find their future in agriculture.
Friday, 24 Hour News 8 found Jed Welder harvesting soybeans from his family farm in Montcalm County’s Sidney Township.
“We’re a small family farm,” said Welder. “(We’ve) Been farming full-time for about three years.”
Welder grew up on the farm. While farming has always been in his blood, it wasn’t always in his heart.
“I ran away and joined the Marine Corps just as soon as I could to get away from it. And the farther away I got, the more I wanted to come back,” said Welder.
That was 20 years ago.
Welder later joined the Army, which he retired from in 2008, after serving several tours of duty in places like Afghanistan and Iraq.
Welder said his time in the military helped bring him back to the farm.
“There’s two things that compare: one is mission first, and the other is family always. And those are two Army values that translate directly to agriculture,” said Welder.
Now as a member of the Farmer Veteran Coalition, Welder is focused on helping other veterans find familiarity on a farm.
“This provides them a way to have both camaraderie and a network that can help them with resources that are out there,” explained Welder.
Approximately 8,000 members strong, the nonprofit Farmer Veteran Coalition is focused on recruiting a new generation of farmers by serving as mentors to returning veterans.
“Farming can be a lonely occupation. When you bond with other farmers, you’ve got that connection… and having other veterans to talk to about the challenges they’ve faced in the past, and also what they’re facing breaking in to a very closed group of agriculture is a great resource,” said Welder.
While Welder grew up on a farm, he says no prior experience is required.
“There’s so many resources out there from you farm services agencies in each county, from your national resources conservation society in each county that have programs specifically tailored towards veterans,” he added.
The Farmer Veteran Coalition will hold its national conference in Lansing later this month.