Ag's HR Coach

Hiring Military Veterans for the Farm

Lori Culler
By  Lori Culler , DTN Farm Business Adviser
Military veteran possess numerous traits necessary to lead a team in the field and in the barn, making them a good hire for many farms. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Air Force)

The average American farmer is 58 years old, according to the 2012 Census of Agriculture. Farmers over 55 control more than half of the country's farmland, and one in two is likely to retire in the next decade. Combined with a three-decade-long decline in the number of new farmers joining the ranks, it's becoming more difficult to find workers.

When it comes to hiring, it's no surprise that a popular credential to look for is military experience. We had a client recently hire a senior-level military captain to fill an operations role on a farm focusing on developing structure, process improvement and training of employees. My husband, a retired military sergeant who didn't grow up in agriculture, is a senior farm manager and has been for over the past decade.

Military veterans possess numerous traits necessary to lead a team in the field and in the barn, making them a good hire for many farms. A few of the traits that are common for military employees include:

-- Trust and respect. Veterans gain a unique perspective on the value of accountability. They can grasp their place within an organizational framework and become responsible for the outcome of their team's work. They understand policies and procedures are in place for a purpose, and they respect that.

-- Communication skills. Military personnel understand style-flexing in the way they communicate. There is the possibility he/she speaks more than one language and has traveled internationally. In addition, this new employee may bring along a high level of technical literacy that can serve to streamline communication efforts across the farm. Trained in effective writing and professional communications, military personnel know that being successful means being able to communicate articulately and efficiently with other staffing levels.

-- Preference to be outdoors. Veterans know what it means to do "an honest day's work." They've been through boot camp, continuous training and in some cases, war. Military employees may have traveled across the U.S. and other countries. They are trained to adapt to the elements, so rainy days in the field will not affect them as it does others.

-- Attention to detail. Veterans have the proven ability to learn new skills and concepts. In addition, they can enter your workforce with transferable skills, proven in real-world situations. This background can enhance your farm's overall productivity.

-- Steadfast loyalty. Job turnover is higher than ever, but military personnel have longevity in their history. Veterans stopped their life because they were loyal to their country. This extraordinary spirit is rare and carries on into their civilian careers. Veterans do not job hop. They want to find a home and grow with an honorable company. If you create a productive working environment for the employee, he/she will stay with the company.

-- Mechanical skills. Because of their experiences in the service, veterans are usually strong mechanically and well-informed on the latest technology. Candidates with heavy-wheeled experience transition well to maintenance roles. They can bring the kind of technological savvy operations of any size need to succeed.

There are many local veteran centers, service organizations, colleges and military bases you can connect with to find the candidate. You can also hire a recruiting firm, such as AgHires, where we will help you succeed in matching your organization's needs with the skills of quality candidates.

An additional thing for employers to consider when hiring veterans are tax credits established under the VOW (Veterans Opportunity to Work) to Hire Heroes Act of 2011. The Returning Heroes Tax Credit provides an incentive for companies to hire unemployed veterans, while the Wounded Warrior Tax Credit provides a tax credit for hiring long-term unemployed veterans with service-connected disabilities. It's just one more perk to hiring a military veteran.


Editor's note: If you're interested in learning more about ways to attract the best talent, craft competitive compensation packages and get the most out of the labor you have, DTN's HR Coach Lori Culler will host several sessions at the DTN Ag Summit. For registration and event details, visit…

Lori Culler grew up on a vegetable and grain farm and is the founder of AgHires (…), a national employment recruiting service and online ag job board based in Temperance, Michigan. Email and find other labor management tips under Resources at


Lori Culler