Honoring the farmers who chose to serve twice

As we celebrate Veteran’s Day this year, we should not skip over the individuals who continued a life of service once they retired from their uniform. Just over 10 percent of producers in the United States have served in the military. Not only have they taken on the noble task of protecting our freedom, but they also chose to take on the job of producing our country’s food, fuel, and fiber. 

With their unique expertise, Veterans in agriculture bring a lot to the table. With their strong work ethic and troubleshooting and problem-solving ability, former military members have much to offer the agricultural industry. 

Larry Balsley was among the unique demographic. He served in the Army National guard from 1962 to 1968. Larry became a squad leader in the motor pool after working in the arms room for about a year. After his discharge, he returned to the family farm, happy to be milking cows with his dad again.

U.S. Army veteran and farmer Larry
Balsley driving his tractor.
Photo courtesy of Sydney Hansen

Growing up, Larry raised crops alongside cows, pigs, and chickens. Now, he has been farming corn and soybeans for the past 20 years.

Larry said that serving in the Army contributed to how he farms. It has helped him overcome the challenges he faced in his operation. 

“It gives you a lot of determination because if you are not committed to what you are doing, you are not going to survive,” he said. “They teach you respect and honor, and to do what you are responsible for doing.” 

Larry said his favorite part of being a farmer is when fall comes around and it is time to run the combine. He thinks harvest time is the most critical part of being a producer, and he appreciates the really important things.

Larry said serving in the armed forces gives you a sense of pride and joy. Being both a service member and farmer pushes you to be flexible, willing to adapt and how roll with the punches. He understands the noble cause of serving his country and serving the world. 

Unfortunately, months after this story was published, Larry passed away due to complications with Covid-19. The above picture was of Larry and his restored tractor that his family remembers as one of his proud achievements.

On this Veterans Day, if you know of a producer that was also a member of the armed forces, be sure to thank them twice. They deserve gratification for their commitment to two primary causes that provide the backbone for our nation. 

Editor’s note: This story was published on Nov. 11, 2020. Changes were made to reflect that Larry Balsley passed away in December 2020 due to complications with Covid-19.

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