Business Transformation

How AppHarvest Is Investing in Vets

High tech-indoor farm AppHarvest acknowledges and appreciates the sacrifices our brave U.S. military veterans have made to keep America free. AppHarvest is committed to recruiting and hiring veterans to join its burgeoning brand, dedicated to growing more food with fewer resources. According to American Farmland Trust, from 2001 to 2016, the U.S. lost 11 million acres of farmland. AppHarvest is poised to be one of the largest fruit and vegetable suppliers in the U.S. 

AppHarvest uses 90% less water than traditional open-field agriculture, thanks to a closed-loop water system utilizing a 10-acre rainwater retention pond. At its flagship location in Morehead, Kentucky, more than 300 jobs have been created, breathing life into economically challenged Appalachia. The company also has more than 20 jobs up for grabs in accounting, greenhouse ops, government relations, maintenance, marketing, technology, and other essential areas. Summer internships are also available. 

For those seeking a future in contemporary farming, AppHarvest is always on the hunt for proactive, entrepreneurial-minded workers with a passion for improving the lives of others and the grit and grace to make it all happen. Both the leadership and team at AppHarvest hold a deep respect for the military men and women who served their nation and are helping America move into a new arena of agriculture. AppHarvest sponsors Military Sunday at the Kentucky State Fair, which provides free admission for up to four people per military ID for active and retired military and their families. During Military Sunday in August, veterans were honored with an Oak Ridge Boys concert and a World War II exhibit dedicated to the sacrifices of veterans. 

“We have a team that looks at this as this is our 30-year journey here at AppHarvest, said AppHarvest founder and CEO Jonathan Webb, who previously built solar energy projects for the government. “We pay every employee at AppHarvest a living wage. Everybody has full health care benefits for which we pay the full premium.”

AppHarvest packhouse supervisor Brandon Ferguson enjoys working at AppHarvest because of the everyday challenges it brings. The Army National Guardsman, who joined the military in 2014, ran multiple COVID-19 testing sites during the pandemic and assisted civilians during floods and snowstorms. “The style of leadership I have been brought up in translates well on the packhouse floor,” said Ferguson, who was honored with Armed Forces Services and Humanitarian awards. “It’s all about trusting the person next to you and knowing, without a doubt, that you trained them to the best of your ability.”

Fearlessly accepting new missions at AppHarvest, Ferguson never gets complacent in his role. AppHarvest Software Applications Platform SVP Mark Keller joined the Army in 1988 and is a Gulf War veteran who also served in Korea during that time. Keller finds using technology to feed people to be a rewarding experience. During his deployment, he quickly realized the world’s problems extended far beyond his backyard in Illinois. Keller values how AppHarvest gives veterans a chance to work in software development because he feels most military men and women do not gain the coding skills required for many tech jobs. 

“Veterans have the life, leadership, and team collaboration skills that are essential for success,” Keller said. “Everything you did in the military has a parallel in business; you just have to pattern-match to find it.”

Contributing to creating the farm of the future with AppHarvest, Keller uses robotics and more than two decades of software knowledge to take AppHarvest to the next level. “Adding an industry veteran like Mark will be a true game changer for this growth phase of our business, and his strong, people-centric leadership skills will be a key enabler for the AppHarvest technology group,” said  AppHarvest Chief Technology Officer Josh Lessing. 

A former Amazon employee, Keller also worked with the Military Apprentice Software Development Engineer program to improve diversity hiring in technology, which he intends to carry on at AppHarvest.

The U.S. unemployment rate for veterans is around 3.6%, according to While LinkedIn discovered veterans are 37% more likely to be underemployed than nonveterans, companies such as AppHarvest are working to change that and make a lasting difference in the lives of veterans. 

Crop care specialist Elaine Manning joined the Army in 1984. Originally from Kentucky, Manning’s military service taught her the value of teamwork and the advantages of accomplishing tasks of all sizes. Coupling innovation with technology, Manning appreciates how AppHarvest is revolutionizing the agriculture industry and offering veterans a chance to have a career in such a cutting-edge industry.

“So many veterans have trouble finding viable jobs after serving in the military,” Manning mentioned. “They have a lot to offer the workforce with the gained leadership skills and the formed discipline.”

Regardless of their military specialty or skill set, Manning feels veterans can elevate all companies, and she respects how AppHarvest is investing in them. 

Enterprise program manager Angela McGinnis joined the Navy in 2009. While serving in New York and South Carolina, McGinnis learned the qualities that make up a great team, and she always enjoyed watching her teammates achieve new goals. That mindset is something that carries over in her civilian career at AppHarvest. McGinnis knows how to work with various personalities from different cultures and how to work together to create positive changes thanks to her time in the military. 

Supply Chain and Procurement VP Adam Reel spent a decade in the Navy and seven years in the reserves. The recipient of the Defense Meritorious Service Medal and Air Medal served in the Middle East and is enamored with how AppHarvest is solving agricultural and climate change issues while fueling the economy. “The military provides a baseline of human leadership that is not always present in civilian organizations,” Reel said. 

Whenever fellow veterans reach out to Reel, there’s an unspoken pact that he will help them. While transitioning from military to civilian life can be challenging for many, Reel said he’s always eager to support veterans with the shift. “Veterans know how to work in uncertain environments,” said Reel, who advises veterans to see the value in networking with other veterans. “They also tend to put the team before themself.”

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Anna Papadopoulos is a senior money, wealth, and asset management reporter at CEOWORLD magazine, covering consumer issues, investing and financial communities + author of the CEOWORLD magazine newsletter, writing about money with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind. You can follow CEOWORLD magazine on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or connect on LinkedIn for musings on money, wealth, asset management, millionaires, and billionaires. Email her at