On June 5 and 6, 2014, more than 50 veterans and farmers gathered in Warrenton, Virginia, for a workshop to train military veterans to become heritage breed farmers. The Livestock Conservancy, in partnership with the Virginia Cooperative Extension Service, hosted the national workshop titled From Service to Stewardship. Attendees spent a full-day in classroom sessions learning about heritage breeds, followed by a half-day on farms where participants received a first-hand look at heritage breed farming.
“I learned how to catch and halter a sheep, giving me confidence I COULD handle sheep,” said Barbara Rosholdt, a workshop attendee from Mineral, VA. “Finding one’s passion is critical.”
Military veterans have a well-deserved reputation for skills such as hard work, planning, reliability, and leadership that serve them well as farmers and almost 30% of our military veterans live in rural areas (National Center for Veterans Analysis and Statistics, 2012). Many find healing in rural life and farming, and these new farmers are filling a gap in our agricultural system as older farmers retire.
Livestock Conservancy former executive director Eric Hallman shared, “Veterans are service minded, and farmer veterans find that raising endangered breeds of livestock and poultry provides a new form of service by helping feed their communities and save breeds that might otherwise disappear.”
Workshop attendees visited three Virginia farms including a family farm that has raised grass-fed cattle for over 150 years, a sheep farm in the Blue Ridge, and a multi-species small farm in Falmouth that does it all. Attendee Andrea Chandler added, “Overall the workshop was incredibly valuable and I am incredibly grateful for the scholarship that allowed me to attend. I took a lot away that can help me out with my goats!”
The Livestock Conservancy is seeking additional funding to expand its From Service to Stewardship workshops for veterans around the country.
About the Livestock Conservancy:
The Livestock Conservancy (formerly The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy) is America's leading nonprofit organization working to protect over 150 breeds of livestock and poultry from extinction. Included are donkeys, cattle, goats, horses, sheep, pigs, rabbits, chickens, ducks, geese and turkeys. Founded in 1977, The Conservancy is the pioneer organization in the U.S. working to conserve historic breeds and genetic diversity in livestock. The Livestock Conservancy’s mission is to ensure the future of agriculture through genetic conservation and the promotion of endangered breeds of livestock and poultry.
About Virginia Cooperative Extension:
Virginia Cooperative Extension provides resources and educational outreach to the Commonwealth of Virginia’s more than seven million residents in the areas of agriculture and natural resources, family and consumer sciences, community viability, and 4-H youth development. Since the passage of the Smith-Lever Act of 1914, it has operated as the primary in-state outreach service for the commonwealth’s two land-grant universities: Virginia Tech and Virginia State University. Today, Virginia Cooperative Extension has a network of faculty and staff at two universities, 107 county and city offices, 11 agricultural research and Extension centers, and six 4-H educational centers.
Why are domestic breed of livestock and poultry in danger of extinction?
Modern agriculture and food production favors the use of a few highly specialized breeds selected for maximum output in intensively controlled environments. Many traditional breeds do not excel under these conditions, so have lost popularity and are faced with extinction.
Why is genetic diversity important?
Like all ecological systems, agriculture depends on genetic diversity to adapt to an ever-changing environment. Genetic diversity in domestic animals is revealed in distinct breeds, each with different characteristics and uses.
Traditional, historic breeds retain essential attributes for survival and self-sufficiency – fertility, foraging ability, longevity, maternal instincts, ability to mate naturally, and resistance to disease and parasites. As agriculture changes, we will need to draw on this genetic diversity for a broad range of uses and future opportunities. Once lost, genetic diversity is gone forever.