Recently, I was invited to speak at the Farmer Veteran Coalition’s Empowering Women Veterans Conference in Louisville, Kentucky. The Farmer Veteran Coalition, founded by Michael O’Gorman, is a veteran outreach organization offering employment and farm education programs for veterans. Niman Ranch has been working with the organization to provide opportunities for veterans to join the Niman Ranch community of family farmers.
It’s an understatement to tell you how honored I was to speak at the Empowering Women Veteran’s Conference on Agriculture, Business and Well-being. I was so impressed with this group. Many of the attendees were actual veterans themselves, while others were spouses of veterans, including several who were married to persons who died in service to our country. All of the attendees continue their tradition of serving to make the world a better place, this time through farming.
I met a fellow Iowan named Sonia Kendrick. She served in Afghanistan and is now working to solve the issue of hunger here in Iowa. Kendrick told me she couldn’t believe the vast number of people going hungry here in the state of Iowa – over 340,000 people each night according to the USDA – with so much bounty around us. She pointed out that much of what is grown in our state is exported or not meant for human consumption.
Iowa has unique resources, Sonia noted, for example: churches and businesses with vast lawns. She asked why we don’t farm that land to provide fresh produce for those in need while providing experience and assistance to landless beginning farmers to help them qualify for loans. Ideas such as this show how Sonia continues to try to make a difference in the lives of so many through her work with Feed Iowa First, which collaborates with various local nonprofit organizations.
This Thanksgiving I am thankful for having met numerous women like Sonia at the Empowering Women Veteran’s conference, who even in the face of adversity, injury and death, continue in their efforts to make our world a better place. Thank you!