Taking care of our own is one of the most important tenets of military culture. Regardless of branch of service, the armed forces is a proud band of brothers and sisters where you can always count on someone ‘watching your six.’
After transitioning back into the civilian world, many veterans immediately notice an absence of camaraderie and sense of community that typifies the military lifestyle. The civilian workforce just doesn’t value these ideals in the same way.
Army veterans Greggory DeBoer and Chad Tackett recently proved this mentality is alive and well among the Farmer Veteran Coalition membership.
To honor farmer veterans and their service to our country, Successful Farming magazine and Grasshopper mowers have teamed up for a new contest called From Fighter to Farmer. The contest invites farmer veterans—or their friends and family—to share their story for a chance to be one of three farmer veterans who will receive a $5,000 cash prize plus a three-day, all-inclusive trip for two people to Nashville, Tennessee.
These three farmer veterans will also be highlighted in a feature article in Successful Farming magazine next November and on Agriculture.com. Starting in October, you’ll be able to vote online for one of the veterans. The farmer veteran with the most votes will receive $10,000 to spend at Grasshopper mowers, in addition to the $5,000 cash prize and trip to Nashville.
With Spring upon us and planting season right around the corner, Farmer Veteran Coalition is pleased to announce a new member benefit courtesy of Dadant & Sons, Inc., the largest manufacturer of beekeeping supplies in the United States.
The new benefit provides Farmer Veteran Coalition members with a 10% discount on in-store purchases but does not include medicines, feed or bulk containers.
To use the benefit at one of Dadant’s 11 nationwide locations, inform the representative that you are an FVC member interested in using the 10% discount. The representative will then need to verify your membership with FVC, which may include making a phone call to their main office, so be sure to bring your state-issued identification card and military or Veterans Affairs identification card, if possible.
With the goal of equipping women veterans with business and farming tools, Farmer Veteran Coalition hosted its third Empowering Women Veterans: Business, Agriculture and Well-Being Conference March 4-5, 2016, for more than 80 people at the prestigious Stone Barns Center in Pocantico Hills, New York.
The free conference was open to all active duty and veteran women, as well as women who farm with veterans. It featured daily on-site workshops in sheep production, year-round vegetable production, and farm-to-restaurant sales as well as educational presentations given by women veterans and other experts.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, organic food sales in the United States have shown double-digit growth during most years since 1990, with sales approaching $37 billion last year alone. To meet this growing demand, Farmer Veteran Coalition created the Veteran Organic Training Program.
Established in September 2015, the Veteran Organic Training Program is designed to cover FVC member’s costs to organically certify their farms, from the new application fee through certification.
Farmer Veteran Coalition member Kelly Carlisle (center) of Acta Non Verba: Youth Urban Farm Project shares her story of transitioning from military to agriculture while FVC members James Brady (left) of Con10u2farm, L3C, and Vonita Murray (right) of Mariposa Valley Farm listen. As part of the 29th California Small Farm Conference held March 5-8 in Sacramento, California, FVC hosted a workshop titled ‘Veterans in Agriculture: A Solution to the Decreasing Farmer Population.’ The workshop, which was held in a roundtable discussion format, informed attendees of the challenges facing veterans embarking on careers in agriculture, and the unique skill sets that make veterans the perfect demographic for replacing the decreasing farmer population.
Throughout our nation’s history, service men and women have always stood at the ready to answer the call of duty. From the Revolutionary War to the Global War on Terrorism, America has called upon its brave men and women to rise to challenges, both at home and abroad.
Now, as two out of every three farmers who reach retirement age are not being replaced, veterans are once again answering the call. To honor this call to service, the Homegrown By Heroes label was established to differentiate farmer veteran products, provide point-of-sale visibility, and afford consumers the opportunity to support farmer veterans.
Established in 2013 by the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, Homegrown By Heroes is available to farmers, ranchers, fishermen, and value-added producers, who own 50% or more of a business or operation, and are veterans of the armed forces with a characterization of service of Honorable or General (Under Honorable Conditions). With the announcement, the Homegrown By Heroes label now has partnerships with 12 states: Kentucky, Ohio, Arkansas, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, South Carolina, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Maine, and Indiana.
Since Farmer Veteran Coalition assumed stewardship of the label on Veterans Day 2013, Homegrown By Heroes has blossomed into a nationally recognized program by the United States Department of Agriculture, and includes more than 400 members in 46 states.
“The Homegrown By Heroes label empowers veterans to stand out in a competitive marketplace,” said Aaron Magill, Army veteran and manager of Homegrown By Heroes. “It gives your product a personal, appreciable touch that links you to your community.”
Despite Homegrown by Heroes’ rapid growth since 2013, there is still a long way to go before it achieves the same kind of brand recognition as established labels like ‘USDA Organic.’ However, as more members learn about the benefits of product labeling, particularly differentiating themselves as veterans, FVC hopes the label will become a household name.
“It’s not about calling ourselves heroes,” said Magill. “It’s about marketing to those who recognize your military service as being something of great value. It’s a way for civilians to support veterans in a tangible way.”
So far, Homegrown By Heroes has partnerships with 12 states—Kentucky, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Arkansas, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, South Carolina, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Maine—but hopes to expand to all 50. In many cases, partner states seamlessly merge their department of agriculture marketing campaigns with the Homegrown By Heroes label.
“Imagine having an Indiana Grown label and Homegrown By Heroes label on your product,” said Magill. “That’s instant credibility and legitimacy for our farmer veterans.”
Farmer Veteran Coalition, in conjunction with the Indiana State Department of Agriculture’s Indiana Grown, are pleased to announce a new Homegrown By Heroes partnership with the state of Indiana.
The partnership was announced Monday at the Indiana War Memorial with Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, Indiana Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann, and Indiana State Department of Agriculture Director Ted McKinney in attendance.
“Helping our Hoosier veterans, who have selflessly served our state and nation, is a pillar of my administration,” said Governor Pence. “As our economy continues to grow, the Homegrown by Heroes program will help ensure that our Hoosier heroes have every opportunity to succeed when they return home from serving our state and nation. After putting their lives on the line for our freedom, helping them achieve success in their civilian affairs is the least we can do.”
With the announcement, the Homegrown By Heroes label now has partnerships with 12 states: Kentucky, Ohio, Arkansas, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, South Carolina, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Maine, and Indiana.
The Indiana Grown Homegrown By Heroes program gives local producers who have served in the military the opportunity to use an exclusively-designed logo on their business signage and/or product labels. This will help consumers who wish to show their support easily identify products made by Hoosier veterans.
To be eligible for the Indiana Grown Homegrown By Heroes program, the producer must meet all Indiana Grown membership criteria, as well as the following:
• Have veteran, active duty, National Guard or Reserve member of the U.S. Armed Forces status, without regard to age or era of duty;
• Provide a copy of their Department of Defense Form 214 or equivalent;
• Have characterization of service of Honorable or General (under Honorable conditions);
• Provide a letter of support from their commanding officer or designated representative attesting to their service under honorable conditions if they are an active duty member;
• Maintain 50 percent or greater veteran ownership of their business or operation and 50 percent or greater veteran management control.
Indiana FVC members interested in becoming Indiana Grown/HBH certified must already be HBH certified with Farmer Veteran Coalition. For more information on Indiana Grown and the Indiana Grown Homegrown By Heroes program, or to apply for membership, visit IndianaGrown.org.
Interested in becoming USDA Organic Certified? California Certified Organic Farmers can help.
As an exclusive benefit for Farmer Veteran Coalition members, CCOF will waive the $325 new application fee that is collected upon submitting an organic certification application.
Organic certification verifies that your farm or handling facility complies with the USDA organic regulations and allows you to sell, label, and represent your products as organic. The USDA organic regulations recognize four categories of organic products: crops, livestock, processed products, and wild crops.
While CCOF will waive the new application fee, there are still additional ongoing certification costs associated with becoming USDA organic certified, to include an annual fee and the cost of an annual inspection. However, small farms and processors are routinely certified for $450 to $1,500, according to the CCOF website.
To assist our members with these additional costs, United Natural Foods, Inc., has awarded FVC with a $6,000 grant. These funds will be administered on a first come, first serve basis to cover out-of-pocket expenses to become organic certified.
Becoming USDA organic certified may not make sense for all of our farmer veterans, however, benefits include: receiving premium prices for your products; access to local, regional and international markets; protecting natural resources, supporting local economies, and access to additional funding and technical assistance programs.
Though CCOF is a California-based certifying agent, they can certify FVC members nationwide.
While you’ve been busy working hard, we here at Farmer Veteran Coalition have been thinking of ways to better serve you, which is why we are excited to announce a number of upcoming changes and additions.
With our membership approaching 7,000 farmer veterans—and growing daily—we thought it was the perfect time to revamp and re-energize our relationship with our most valuable resource: our members.
To do so, we promoted one of our own to manage the newly established Member Relations and Benefits team. Aaron Magill, who also manages the Homegrown By Heroes Label, will lead FVC’s charge to take a more interactive, hands-on approach to our outreach/intake activities.
“This increases our ability to connect with our farmer veterans and meet their needs, whoever they are, wherever they’re at,” said Magill, Army veteran and Purple Heart recipient.
To assist Magill in his new role, we have also hired two new employees. Daniel Vickers, Army and Operation Enduring Freedom veteran, joins the team as the veteran outreach coordinator, bringing with him an educational background in animal science with a concentration in livestock and dairy production. Evan Eagan, Marine Corps and Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran, joins the team as the veteran communications outreach coordinator and will serve various communications functions, most notably overseeing the production of our bi-monthly newsletter.
In the coming months, we will also be announcing major changes to our membership, with a more defined list of benefits and exclusive discounts from our sponsors.
Be sure to check our website for updates, and keep an eye out for our bi-monthly newsletter.