West Point, MS — Service disabled retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel, Leroy Alford is living out his dream of cattle farming. Strong family roots, inspired by his father, and a love of country have led Alford on the journey from the military to the farm.
Leroy Alford grew up in rural West Point, Mississippi. His father was a former dairy farmer and a military man. Growing up, he learned the unique experiences that the military could offer to him.
“The Air Force had opportunities that I wanted to explore,” he explained. He joined part way into pursuing a college degree.
Throughout his career he served all across the globe from Oklahoma, to three tours in the Pentagon, to Turkey, and was then deployed during Desert Storm and Desert Shield, MacDill AFB and United States Central Command. Alford retired in October 2006, as a Lieutenant Colonel.
During his time in the military, Alford created valued friendships.
“It’s typical of military relationships to remain close, even after more than 30 years.” He described the friendships more of a family.
Since retirement, Alford continues to serve his ‘homeland’ in a more literal sense. In 1995, he purchased a 92-acre farm from relatives in Mississippi. The land was used as a cotton and crops farm in the 50s and 60s. Living in Maryland and trying to operate a farm in Mississippi may seem impossible for many, but not for Alford. Although it is extremely difficult, he relies on his parents, who live in Mississippi to keep an eye on the farm while he commutes between the two states. For the time being, SL³ survives on hard work and strong family ties.
He has faced an uphill battle to improve the pastures of the farm. The fields were overgrown. The land hadn’t been farmed in 30 years. The fences were all dilapidated and the pasture was overgrown with trees and brush. Alford got to work, clearing the land and planting in effort to get it approved. This is still an on going process. In 2007, he completed the first 10 acres, working on improving the nutrients of the soil and stopping the erosion, building fences, establishing ponds, and repairing the pastures. He is still currently clearing pastures, planting sustainable fields, and adding fencing, which will allow his farm to grow and increase the number of cattle he raises.
The USDA, U.S. National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and About Giving in conjunction with the VA Accelerator Program have been extremely helpful in his goal to improve the farmland and grow his farm. The VA Accelerator Program (www.vaaccelerator.com) is the Department of Veterans Affairs innovation to help Veterans in all phases of entrepreneurship, from initial self-assessment and business plan preparation through the launch and growth of successful businesses. SL³ currently has about fourteen head of Black Angus cattle.
Black Angus cattle are in high demand. Over the past year, Alford’s farm raised and sold seven calves at market. His farm operates by breeding, raising, and selling cattle once they have reached a certain size.
“The most rewarding aspect of the farm is the opportunity to see the animals grow, to see the land of the farm reinvigorate, the pastures get clear and come back to life,” he said.
Even through struggles with land erosion, sustaining pastures, transporting cattle, and general farm care, Alford enjoys seeing the fruits of his labor and working towards his ultimate goal. He dreams of expanding his farm to about 40 head of cattle and turning it into a USDA Certified Organic Farm when he gets the opportunity to move back to Mississippi.
The VA Accelerator Program is currently in the process of raising capital to be able to give back to more veterans. If you are interested in helping with this process, you can directly visit the campaign page at www.aboutgiving.org.