Veterans in Agriculture to Partner with Extension for Ag Connections Program

Three-year project helps connect veterans with agricultural opportunities

October 5, 2020, 11:00 am | Courtney Long

AMES, Iowa – Iowa’s Veterans In Agriculture recently announced that they are one of 17 recipients of USDA-NIFA’s Enhancing Agricultural Opportunities for Military Veterans Program Grant. They will partner with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Farm, Food and Enterprise Development, Iowa State’s Beginning Farmer Center, Iowa Foundation for MicroEnterprise, and Community Vitality and Ag Ventures Alliance on the three-year program, “Connecting Veterans to Agri-Food System Opportunities.”

Calvin Riggleman.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, as 46% of active U.S. military personnel are from rural areas. Additionally, about one-third of Iowa’s farmland is owned by people over age 75, whereas only 2% is owned by people under age 35. 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 and helping them access resources, land and food system opportunities.

“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, program manager for farm, food and enterprise development with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.

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

 “We are thrilled to have received this grant,” said 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 approach is multi-faceted to support different learning options for veterans because 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. Additional workshops will be offered for transitioning farms or returning to the family farm, succession planning, whole-farm planning and enterprise management, as well as Community Food Systems certification for those interested in planning skills for food system sectors. Participants 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 For information on ISU Extension and Outreach’s involvement, contact Courtney Long at


Original photo: U.S. Marine Corps veteran Calvin Riggleman holds an oregano seedling and soil on Bigg Riggs farm in Hampshire County, WV. USDA photo.

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