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Investing in Veterans through the Family Farm

Larry King Veteran FarmerLarry E. King was raised in a family with farming roots.  The very land he now farms in Whitley County, Kentucky, was purchased by his mother during WWII.  He remembers his mother telling him, “If we didn’t raise it, we didn’t have it.”

In his late teens, Larry raised strawberries on the farm. His life moved away from farming at 17 when he followed in his two brothers footsteps and joined the Air Force.  For six years, Larry was stationed out of Little Rock, Arkansas where he worked with the mobile support systems out of the Military Airlift Command.  After his military assignment, Larry finished college and worked for the US Forest Service Civilian Conservation Corps. After a long career with the Forest Service, Larry retired a few years ago.

About a year before retirement, Larry started revamping the old homestead.  He said, “I look at this place more like a homestead than a traditional farm because I use it to help veterans who want to get started farming.”  Laughing he said, “I’m a farmer but I’m also a philosopher.”

Larry grows berries, grapes, and vegetables, and now, thanks to the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Environmental Quality Incentives Program, Larry has a new seasonal high tunnel to use as what he considers a learning center.  The tunnel is used to raise fruits and vegetables. 

The 2014 Farm Bill expanded assistance for veteran farmers. The USDA sets aside a portion of the EQIP funding allocation for beginning and socially disadvantage farmers and ranchers. Veterans who fall within either of these categories will be eligible for a higher payment rate and receive other considerations for EQIP.  For definitions of these designated categories, visit http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/national/people/outreach/slbfr/. 

Farming comes with many challenges, but Larry appreciates each one. He runs the farm on his own and occasionally has the help of his “student” veteran farmers.  He has worked with the local government and Grow Appalachia program to establish a local farmers market and processing center.  Larry continues to work with the Growing Warriors project to establish additional markets.

His advice to those who want to get started farming is, “You can learn from both good and bad so don’t give up.” Larry is a member of the Disabled American Veterans (DAV), the American Legion, Growing Warriors, and Kentucky Proud’s Homegrown by Heroes.  He looks forward to expanding his operation. 

To find out more about opportunities for beginning farmers and veteran farmers, visit your local USDA Service Center.  Or visit our website to Get Started with NRCS.