Written by Evan Eagan

Before answering the call to serve our nation a second time—by feeding it—Tony Weber served four years in the Marine Corps.

Originally from Perrysburg, Ohio, Tony was compelled to enlist in 2001 when he was just 17 years old out of a sense of duty to serve his country, which was fueled by the terrorist attacks of 9/11.

“I think you gain a lot by public service and by service to your country,” Tony said, who was already enlisted in the Marines’ delayed entry program at the time of the attacks. “I’m of the age of the generation of 9/11 and it was like a calling for our generation.”

During his time in the Marines, Tony served with an elite, lesser-known element called the Yankee White Program, which is named for the level of security clearance needed to work with the President of the United States of America. As a member of the Yankee White Program, Tony worked closely with the Secret Service and other government agencies to provide security for the president, both stateside and abroad.

After separating from the Marines in 2006, Tony returned home to Ohio where he used the GI Bill to attend Hocking College to earn a degree in forest management. Soon after graduating, he accepted a forestry job in Montana, and he and his wife, Michelle, packed up and headed West.

Living deep out on the prairie in Montana where they had to travel long distances to get to the nearest town, the Webers quickly realized the need to begin producing their own food.

“It was 80 miles one way to go to any kind of grocery or hardware store, so we really lived way out on the prairie where you don’t go anywhere with less than a half-tank of gas in your truck and you have to be ready for anything,” he said with a laugh. “And that’s when we started raising chickens, hogs and vegetables for the convenience and, really, the necessity.”

In 2013, with the hard living of the prairie taking its toll on them and a desire to be closer to family, the Webers packed up and moved to Wayne, Ohio, where they immediately started Weber Ranch. Instead of farming corn and soy like most farmers in their region, Tony decided to take his farm in a different direction.

“There’s nobody else in our area doing what we do, so I saw it as our opportunity to start a different type of farm,” he said. “Everybody else around here is doing corn and soybeans and we’re doing pastured organic meat and direct marketing it.”

Now, as first generation farmers in their fourth season of farming, the Webers produce organic pasture-raised chicken, eggs, turkey and pork under the Homegrown By Heroes label. Future plans for Weber Ranch include building out their Buyers Club, expanding into beef and starting an on-farm store.

“Two big principles for us are restoring soil health,” Tony said. “I often say my goal is to grow earth worms and everything we sell is a byproduct of that. And the second is a return to agriCULTURE. Restoring the relationship between people and their food.”

For veterans looking to start a career in agriculture, Tony offers the following advice:

“You must have drive, be self-motivating, be willing to learn and have an unwillingness to give up,” he said. “There’s nothing that you can screw up so bad that it can’t be fixed. It’s no different than in the Marine Corps. You’re going to make mistakes, but you have to learn how to own up to your mistakes and move on from it.”