Nov 22, 2017
USDA helps military veterans learn farm skills

USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) has a new grant opportunity to help military veterans pursue farming and ranching careers. Funding is made through NIFA’s Enhancing Agricultural Opportunities for Military Veterans Competitive Grants Program (AgVets).

“Nearly four million veterans reside in rural America, and NIFA is determined to support veterans who want to pursue agricultural careers,” said NIFA Director Sonny Ramaswamy. “By attracting more veterans into agriculture, we strengthen the rural workforce and invigorate rural communities.”

AgVets seeks to increase the number of military veterans gaining knowledge and skills through comprehensive, hands-on, and immersive model farm and ranch programs offered regionally that lead to successful careers in the food and agricultural sector. The program encourages the development of training opportunities specifically designed for military veterans. These projects will offer onsite, hands-on training and classroom education leading to a comprehensive understanding of successful farm and ranch operations and management practices. Projects may also offer workforce readiness and employment prospects for service-disabled veterans.

The available funding for AgVets grants in FY18 is approximately $4.7 million. Eligible applicants must be nonprofit entities.

The letter of intent deadline is Jan. 11, 2018. The application deadline is Feb. 8, 2018. See the request for applications for details.

NIFA offers several programs to support the military community. The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP) offers training opportunities for veterans and other aspiring agricultural professionals. BFRDP is mandated to have at least five percent of program funds allocated to address the needs of beginning farmers and ranchers who are military veterans. Since 2014, BRFDP has funded 42 projects that served an audience that includes veterans.

Among recent BFRDP projects, Arcadia Farm(link is external) in Alexandria, Virginia, offered a yearlong weekend training program to 12 military veterans to help them learn all aspects of farming, from starting seeds and cultivation to running a successful farm business. Participants visited farms in the region to understand the various business models and hear from farmers – many who are veterans themselves – about the challenges and rewards of the business. The veterans also spent two weeks during the year working on Arcadia Farm to get a feel for the demanding day-to-day rhythms of agriculture.

Veterans Farm(link is external) is a 19-acre handicap-accessible farm near Jacksonville, Florida, that helps veterans learn how to make a living from farming and find healing in the land. Founder Adam Burke, an Iraq combat veteran and Purple Heart recipient, is using his skills to create a unique environment where veterans can develop agriculture skills to help them become effective farmers or ranchers. NIFA partners with Veterans Farm to conduct quarterly workshops to connect these veterans to key departmental resources to grow their new agricultural careers.

The University of Arkansas(link is external) led a team of experts from the University of Missouri, Appalachian State University, the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, and the Farmer Veteran Collation to develop targeted mentoring programs nationwide for beginning farmers and ranchers that emphasize business practices and marketing opportunities, such as a “veteran-grown” label program.

Other NIFA programs also support veterans in agriculture. NIFA’s AgrAbility program(link is external) helps individuals with disabilities, including older farmers and veterans, achieve success in agricultural occupations. NIFA 4-H supports military 4-H clubs(link is external) for families living on installations at home and abroad, as well as 4-H clubs for National Guard and Reserves in communities nationwide. The Clearinghouse for Military Family Readiness(link is external) (Penn State), Virtual Lab School(link is external) (Ohio State), and Military Families Learning Network(link is external) (eXtension) provide current, evidence-based programming to strengthen military families.

NIFA’s mission is to invest in and advance agricultural research, education, and extension to solve societal challenges. NIFA’s investments in transformative science directly support the long-term prosperity and global preeminence of U.S. agriculture. To learn more about NIFA’s impact on agricultural sciences, visit, sign up for email updates, or follow us on Twitter @USDA_NIFA, #NIFAImpacts.

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