Veterans Service Provider Thrilled to Help Others

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Mariel Kessenich Barreras has farmed for 10 years, including raising grass-fed cattle.

Mariel Kessenich Barreras is involved with a number of things as a Veterans Service Provider with Farmer Veteran Coalition.

She also has her hands full at her home in Nebraska, raising six boys and two girls, ranging in age from 5 to 20. Mariel brings years of experience in farming and as an Army spouse to her FVC role.

Mariel is in charge of the Homegrown By Heroes application and certification process that enables FVC members to put a branded label on their products. While much of her work as a Veterans Service Provider is helping FVC members, she also is working with the Native American Finance Committee on an Extension Risk Management Education project.

“My two favorite things about working for FVC are, No. 1: continuing to serve the Veteran community and their families,” she said. “The seven Army values will always be a part of who I am. With FVC I get to work alongside individuals who have the same values and work ethic. It makes my ‘job’ so much more than a job.

“No. 2 is serving beginning farmers. When I started farming I made so many mistakes. I really didn’t know what I didn’t know until I did. I want to come alongside others and help encourage them. I want to make sure they have the resources needed so that they can avoid the mistakes I made and become successful faster.”


She grew up in Wisconsin’s dairy country. While her family were not farmers, Mariel joined FFA in high school because of her love for horticulture. She earned an associate’s degree in horticulture after high school and moved to Alaska to pursue a degree in biology.

Mariel then married into the Army, enjoying 22 years as an Army spouse and FRG (Family Readiness Group) leader, while moving every 18 to 24 months.

“During that time I’ve earned my B.A. and master’s in business and marketing, as well as raised eight amazing kids,” she said.

Mariel started farming 10 years ago, raising grass-fed beef, pastured pork, and eggs. She sold at farmers markets, in nine grocery stores, including Hyvee, and she opened her own store in Omaha, Nebraska.

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Mariel Kessenich Barreras works at her farm in Nebraska.

Helping Farmers

The last 10 years were spent teaching and mentoring beginning and disadvantaged farmers in business and marketing.

“Working closely with FVC, the Center for Rural Affairs, and Practical Farmers of Iowa, I have been blessed to have taught hundreds of beginning farmers and have been a part of their success stories,” she said.

Although they don’t live on their farm, Mariel said they “get to enjoy the best of both worlds by living in a subdivision two minutes from Starbucks and Walgreens.”

With her large family, “the house is always filled with activities and there is ALWAYS laundry. Beside the farm critters, we have house critters of cats, dogs, and a rabbit.”


When she has leisure time, she enjoys spending it with her children, traveling, and reading. The Army life provided each of her children a unique perspective on life, she said, and she enjoys how every dream and sense of adventure they have is so different. It keeps her energized, she added.

She loves people watching at airports, eating at new places, and reading a variety of genres. Enjoying quiet time is extremely valuable to maintaining her high-energy work and family life, she said.

Mariel served as FRG leader through three deployments and multiple missions.

“I have all of my AFTB (Army Family Team Building) training and multiple awards for extraordinary service,” she said. “But what means the most is the deep relationships I have with the spouses and their soldiers even today. It wasn’t the service of the moment; it was a commitment of a lifetime.”