Passionate agriculturalist and military spouse Courtney Dixon was named 2020 Armed Forces Insurance Fort Leonard Wood Spouse of the Year. Playing a big role in the cause for her the recognition is Green to Grain — an online directory designed to connect veterans to resources for careers in agriculture. The site is Courtney’s own creation, seamlessly blending two of her passions and areas of expertise.
A Wyoming native, Courtney grew up surrounded by agriculture, as did her husband of eight years, Sgt. 1st Class Brandon Dixon. While Brandon is still active duty in the U.S. Army, he has set his sights on a career in ag after his military service.
During the job-hunting process, Courtney believed the opportunities for veterans in this field were ripe, with plenty of resources to boot, but noticed a glaring gap.
“There is no ‘one stop shop’ for veterans to easily and quickly find non-biased resources for a future in ag. Transitional career programs and opportunities for non-ag specific fields are a dime a dozen!” Courtney says. “There needed to be something for those wanting to make their ag dreams a reality. I decided to be that someone, and Green to Grain was born.”
Agriculture and veterans seem to fit like a hand in a glove. Despite making up less than 20 percent of the population, it is estimated nearly half of all military recruits come from rural America. And, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, about 24 percent of returning veterans take up residence in rural areas.
Steven Clipp, a communications specialist with the Veteran Experience Office, explains in a Veterans Affairs blog post, “Few pairings more closely align than Veterans and farming. The skill sets developed in military service match many of the characteristics of a successful agricultural professional. Whether it’s a sense of duty, responsibility and accountability for completing the mission, or being organized and disciplined, Veterans typically transition naturally into farming, ranching, and other agricultural opportunities.”
Courtney’s website is completely free and doesn’t accept donations. This ensures the directory remains unbiased and equally provides resources for all with the mission to help veteran retirees and those approaching retirement or military separation, from all branches, to get successfully started in ag. Courtney says those who are busy or who find doing their own research to be difficult can contact her directly at [email protected]. From there, she will create a personalized resource list based on the inquirer’s areas of interest and capabilities.
“While I am not a veteran myself, I believe it is the responsibility of our citizens to provide for those who have protected our freedoms,” she says.
Related article: Rural areas finding ways to support veterans interested in farming
When she began, Courtney promoted her website on a humble enough platform, doing a Facebook livestream on her personal website. She said the interest and engagement took off faster than she ever expected, and today the website averages about 300 visitors per day and is steadily on the rise. But Courtney says this isn’t encouraging for her own sake; she genuinely hopes this nonprofit resource will be a solution to finding veterans careers and decreases the rising rate of homeless veterans in America.
“There is duality of need between the two sectors — fewer and fewer family farms are being continued by current generations, and for many this means the sale of the operation,” Courtney says. “In the veteran community, many are retiring or separating from the military and facing difficulties finding meaningful employment. Our veterans are hardworking, self-starting, responsible, strong, leaders who understand the value of providing to others through their profession. They have a passion for serving America, and ag provides another means of service for our country through production of food.”
Jaclyn Krymowski is a graduate of The Ohio State University with a major in animal industries and minor in agriculture communications. She is an enthusiastic agvocate, professional freelance writer, and blogs at the-herdbook.com.