FFED to partner on grant for farmer veterans

October 1, 2020

FFED will partner over the next three years with Iowa’s Veterans In Agriculture (VIA). VIA announced today that they are one of 17 recipients of USDA-NIFA’s Enhancing Agricultural Opportunities for Military Veterans Program (AgVets) Grant. Other partners include Iowa State’s Beginning Farmer Center, Iowa Foundation for MicroEnterprise and Community Vitality and Ag Ventures Alliance. The project is called “Connecting Veterans to Agri-Food System Opportunities.”

Smiling man holds oregano seedlings in clump of soil.
US Marine Corps veteran Calvin Riggleman holds an oregano seedling and soil on Bigg Riggs farm in Hampshire County, WV. USDA photo.

When returning to civilian life, many veterans are interested in developing careers in agricultural enterprises and food system industries. Supporting these transitioning members and veterans is important for sustaining food and agriculture systems across rural America.

Forty-six percent of active U.S. military personnel are from rural areas. And people over 75 own about one-third of Iowa’s farmland; people under 35 own only two percent. Sixty-eight percent of Iowa farmers report they have no adult children currently engaged in farming. These facts indicate the importance of connecting and educating a new generation of food producers. This grant will help Iowa veterans interested in ag careers access resources, land and food system opportunities.

Connecting veterans to food systems

“We are excited to be a part of this grant to provide additional concepts for food system development, in particular with veteran farm and food businesses,” said Courtney Long, Food Systems Program Manager for ISU Extension and Outreach.

Man speaks into microphone.
ISU Beginning Farmer Center director Dave Baker speaks at Veterans Day at the 2018 Iowa State Fair about opportunities for veteran farmers in Iowa. Iowa NRCS photo.

The AgVets grant will equip military veterans with skills, training and experience for careers in agriculture and food production. It aims to increase the number of military veterans pursuing careers in agriculture through comprehensive, hands-on and immersive learning.

“We are thrilled to receive this grant”, says Beth Grabau, VIA executive director. “It will provide an opportunity to meet the needs of veterans and those who are transitioning from military service.” 

The project offers a multi-faceted approach, to support different learning options for veterans. Each veteran brings a unique set of skills, knowledge and interests. It will include hands-on learning, apprenticeship options with training curriculum and mentorship, and opportunities to explore:

  • local food system enterprises,
  • traditional commercial agriculture opportunities, and
  • agri-food systems and value-added enterprises to supplement off-farm employment

through technical assistance and mentoring options.

Variety of workshops

Workshop topics will include transitioning farms, returning to the family farm, succession planning, whole-farm planning and enterprise management. The project will offer Community Food Systems certification for veterans interested in food systems development.

Participants also will have options to learn about agricultural technologies, startup ventures and rural angel investor networks.

“Over the next three years, this dynamic project will increase awareness of local, state and federal programs for veterans in the Iowa and the Midwest and help build our veteran farm and food businesses,” said Grabau. 

For more information about this grant and other programs provided, contact Veterans In Agriculture at info@veteransinagriculture.org. For information on FFED’s involvement, contact Courtney Long at court7@iastate.edu.