Farming program for veterans takes root at Rodale Institute

Farming program for veterans takes root at Rodale

MAXATAWNY TWP., Pa. - Veterans looking for a new career can now trade the battlefield for the farm field.

"I've never harvested beets before, but these look pretty good," said Dave Reynolds, while kneeling in the middle of a beet field.

For Reynolds, the farm is now his classroom of choice.

"This is my favorite part, just being out in the field," he said, under a sun-drenched and perfect blue sky.

Reynolds, 36, is using his time in the military to move into organic farming. Through Delaware Valley University and Rodale Institute, Reynolds is part of their Veteran Farming Program.

"Program is geared to veterans who want to get into agriculture and organic farming," said Justin Barclay, the program coordinator and a veteran himself.

The three-year-old program has had seven vets so far, and the one-year course has five more set for this fall.

Reynolds said it isn't solely weeding and seeding. Students must complete two class courses while earning their farming stripes in the field.

"In the military they may spend time outside anyway. This is different side that is more enjoyable and tie back to memories they had," Barclay added.

Currently, more than a half-million veterans are looking for work, whether it be picking the perfect produce or something else.

Reynolds said vets have intangibles often overlooked in the workplace.

"It's not like we need a handout for a vet to help them. We need them to help us because they have skill normal people don't have," he stressed.

For Reynolds, a skill he found he now has is the ability to grow an excellent eggplant.

"It's a good looking vegetable, and I'm happy about that," he said.

An open house for the program, which is also open to non-veterans, is set for this Saturday, July 25, at the Rodale Institute, 611 Siegfriedale Rd., in Maxatawny Township, Berks County, near Kutztown. Participation is free, but advance registration is required.

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