Each year, roughly 200,000 men and women leave U.S. military service and return to life as civilians. Nearly one in four veterans live in rural America, with some states seeing more than 60 percent of their veterans returning home to rural areas. As these former U.S. military members look to integrate their unique skills and experiences into a civilian career, many have found opportunities in agriculture. Currently, 370,019 veterans are using their knowledge and skills to serve as farmers and ranchers across America.
This Fourth of July, two Sanderson Farms farmers, who served in the military, share their thoughts on how their backgrounds have helped them become successful stewards of the land they fought to defend.
For Air Force Reserves veteran Harvey Rouse, his 22-year career as an engineering specialist with two tours in Iraq instilled a sense of time management and self-motivation that has proven to be vital to his success.
“The military engrains self-discipline into you. You have to be a self-starter and stay aware of your own responsibilities at all times,” said Rouse. “In poultry farming, you have to be able to manage your time well. With multiple chicken houses to run, there’s no time to be wasted.”
Harvey and Lori Rouse (Sanderson Farms)
Attention to detail
Rouse, a third-generation farmer, has a no-nonsense approach to management, asserting that proper attention to detail is key to any task. He says that taking responsibility for one’s own farming operations is essential for success.
“Raising chickens is not rocket science, but it does take a detail-oriented person to be successful at it. Every small detail counts,” said Rouse. “There’s nobody there to hold your hand through it, but it will come together if you do your part.”
Matthew Anglin, a trained medic who spent a decade in the Army Reserves, which included a deployment to Iraq, feels his military experience prepared him well to become a poultry farmer.
“In farming, your only option is to be dedicated,” said Anglin. “Life can change in a second and things can go from good to bad, but you still have to be committed to what you’re doing.”
Born into a family with strong military ties, Anglin says his father made a lasting impact on this life by showing him how to serve. A military veteran himself, Anglin’s father became a police officer after he retired from the service.
“My father showed me, through his actions, what it means to truly serve, and that has made a difference in how I run my farm,” said Anglin. “If it’s cold, rainy, or inconvenient – it doesn’t matter. Those animals still need to be served.”
Recalling his time overseas, Anglin says his family was always the motivation for his military service. He began his service after observing the sacrifice of others, including an uncle, during the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
“Shortly after the September 11 attacks, I’d watch the news every day and see that we’d lost soldiers and think to myself, ‘these men and women are dying for my family, my wife, and my kids,’” said Anglin. “At that moment, I just felt like I should be doing my part, so that I was not riding on the back of somebody else providing freedom for my family.”
Rouse also stressed the weight of the sacrifice for his fellow veterans and their families.
“We spent a lot of time away from home. Some spend 16-18 months deployed. Some return home with lost limbs. Some do not return home at all,” said Rouse. “The price of freedom is not cheap, and a lot of people fight every day to ensure that we can be safe.”
Although they have now traded in their fatigues for denim, Rouse, Anglin, and all veteran farmers continue to serve each day by stewarding the land that they fought so selflessly to protect. This Independence Day, as many will grill out and celebrate freedom, remember to thank our veteran farmers – dinner is truly served.