We are excited to share our conversation with Michael O'Gorman, Executive Director of the Farmer Veteran Coalition (FVC), a national nonprofit that works with veterans to cultivate a new generation of farmers and food leaders. Michael has been farming since 1970 and first began FVC in 2008 out of the back of his pickup truck.
Q: What motivated you to start your career in social impact?
A: Even as a young kid, I've always thought about what I will do in my life that will be impactful. I farmed because I loved it but also because I wanted to do something that was real, difficult, and that would give me a platform to have an impact. Farming had no hype to it. In a way, throughout my entire farming career I have thought about impact, about the people who worked for me, and the people who ate my food. Coming after 9/11 was the convergence of two major things – men and women serving in the military who were coming from farm towns, and our farms that lacked men and women. I put two and two together and it seemed to amount to something greater. I knew I was onto something that no one else was doing and that would be impactful. But it became more than I ever imagined. And it had a major impact on me.
Q: What do you do in your current position?
A: As Executive Director I oversee the project, but I also think a lot about what we can do that will actually be of help to the most veterans. I try to assist them with any challenges. Having spent my career in agriculture, I think about veterans who want to start a life in agriculture and how we can help them succeed and stay with it.
Q: What one skill or resource has been indispensable to your career thus far?
A: As a vegetable farmer, I was attracted to the interplay of growing food and people. Vegetable production was like a team sport or group activity. People worked in unison with a common goal of creating a farm producing vegetables together. It took directing people to grow food as a communal creation. That lent itself to FVC; it's like my crew – we're all growing food together and instilling a sense of common purpose and shared joy.