Student veterans at Sterling College discuss the College-to- Farm program
There is a groundswell of veterans in the United States looking for their next mission—small-scale ecological farming.
Sterling College is looking to cultivate the next generation of farmers, and has a program called “College-to-Farm” that is only available for veterans. The College-to-Farm program is a $10,000 grant that veterans get once they graduate from Sterling with a Sustainable Agriculture or Sustainable Food Systems degree to launch a farm or food business.
Student veterans are currently on track to graduate and become eligible for the grant. Emlyn Jones ’17 finished a six-month deployment in Afghanistan in 2012 and decided he wanted to work on restoring landscapes as his life’s work.
He hopes to use the grant to help turn the 197-acre farm he and his family inherited in northwest Illinois into a model of organic farming.
“Our family is working together to develop a clear vision, goal, and plan for our land and the restoration we want to bring to an agricultural community starved of healthy farming practices and quality food,” Jones said in a recent essay. “My pursuits here at Sterling College have tied in with this vision, and led to the creation of detailed analyses and plans for the farm which are in the early stages of implementation.”
Liz Hardy ’20 decided, after a 18 years of service, to finally concentrate on her lifelong love—farming. She is currently working on her second BA in Sustainable Agriculture. “When I was in high school,” she said, “I always wanted to [study] agriculture, but my family couldn’t afford it.”
She went into the U.S. Army and was on active duty from 1983–1986, then got her first college degree to be an Exceptional Education teacher. After a second stint of active duty after 9/11, where she was stationed in both Germany and Iraq, she said, “I decided I was going to go back to what I always wanted to do!”
Part of her reason for choosing Sterling College was the College-to-Farm grant. The other part was “getting your hands dirty, dealing with the animals—I love all that stuff,” she said. “It’s all a learning process for me here and I’m learning every day and it’s very interesting!” She laughed. “It’s FUN!”
Veterans who are interested in learning more about the College-to-Farm program or Sterling College’s environmental stewardship education are encouraged to contact Lucy Hankinson via email or at 800-648-3591, or to visit our web page at www.sterlingcollege.edu/veterans.