Chad and Shirlene Tackett are both disabled Veterans, recently retired and embarking on new careers in agriculture. Tackett Family Farms is a 200-acre operation in Martinez, Georgia. They raise cattle, hogs, grow berries, and have 20 acres in lumber. As recipients of the 2015 Bob Woodruff Fellowship award, the Tackett’s purchased 7 long-horned cattle to grow their herd. FVC founder and executive director says “I love the purchase of livestock as a Fellowship Fund activity. Nothing appreciates in value quite the same and when it is a farmer’s first animals, the arrival of them onto the farm is a seminal moment in his/her transition into farming.”

All three of the Tackett’s sons love helping on the farm. The oldest currently serves in the Navy and is stationed in Kings Bay, a few hours’ drive from his family’s farm. He spends the weekends at the property helping with the livestock, and plans to farm with his parents full-time once he retires from the Navy. Their 9-year old has explained to Chad how he can use GPS on his smart phone to track cattle in the pasture, and the 7-year old is counting down the days until he gets to drive the tractor himself. Chad grew up on a farm, caring for cattle and learned to drive on an old Ford tractor. He says, “I can remember looking at the Army as my ticket out of the rural lifestyle and poverty. Yet, like so many veterans, I’ve spent my career yearning to return to it.” Both Chad and Shirlene hold degrees in Business Management and have well-constructed plans to expand their operation in the future. They pre-sell cow shares to their co-workers at Fort Gordon and will be selling at farmer’s markets in Augusta. Tackett beef is marketed under the Homegrown by Heroes brand, as well as Georgia Grown, and will soon be certified organic.

During his many deployments in the Middle East, Chad was impressed by the novel techniques and perseverance he observed in the farmers he met. “They managed to coax crops out of the harshest environments in Afghanistan. I always told myself, if these guys can do this here while dodging gunfire and bombs, then what excuse do I have for not succeeding given the opportunities we have in America”.