Armed to Farm: Sustainable Agriculture Training For Military Veterans

What is Armed to Farm?

Armed to Farm is Sustainable Agriculture Training For Military Veterans
Learn more about current opportunities, technical assistance, and online tutorials.

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Note: NCAT's Armed to Farm information is also available in PDF format for easy printing and sharing. Thank you!

ATTRA ATF logo

Veteran Resources

How Can NCAT Help You?

Farmers and ranchers are looking for reliable information on sustainable and organic agriculture, on how to get started in farming, on how to qualify for government programs that reward land stewardship and resource conservation, and on how to pursue such profitable niche markets as organic meats and grains or agriculture tourism. The answers to these and many other similar questions are available free from an NCAT program called ATTRA - Sustainable Agriculture.



Current Opportunities

There are no ATF Events scheduled in the near future, but please check back often as more events will be offered in 2020.
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Coming in 2019: Armed to Farm 2.0

Armed to Farm 2.0 is a next-level sustainable agriculture training designed for those who have attended an Armed to Farm in the past. ATF 2.0 will have more in-depth curriculum on business planning, financial management, marketing, and scaling-up production. We will tailor hands-on activities at area farms to participants' needs and will focus on more advanced production, marketing, and entrepreneurship techniques. There will be plenty of time for information sharing and networking. NCAT will provide lodging, most meals, and transportation to local farms during this week-long event.


Publications

ATTRA publications cover a wide range of topics, including:


Visit www.attra.ncat.org to view a complete list of our publications. Most are available to download in PDF format.


Tutorials

ATTRA offers free, online self-instruction courses to help beginning farmers and producers who want to diversify their operations or expand their markets. The courses include a variety of educational tools such as worksheets, narrated PowerPoint presentations, videos, and tip sheets.

 

Technical Assistance

ATTRA's friendly staff members are knowledgeable about livestock, horticulture, agronomy, organic farming, marketing, farm energy, and many other sustainable agriculture topics, and are available to provide free assistance. ATTRA offers several ways producers can contact an agriculture specialist, who will research questions and send the client a report, including sources of more information.

 

Website

In addition to over 300 publications, ATTRA's website contains webinars, videos, searchable databases, plus tools to keep you up-to-date on what's happening in sustainable agriculture:


What participants say about Armed to Farm training:

"This was one of the best workshops, if not the best, in any field I have been involved in. It was a great mix of hands-on and classroom instruction. The instructors were very experienced and knowledgeable."

"As a Wounded Warrior Project Alumni, two-time Iraq veteran, and beginning farmer I can, without hesitation, recommend the Armed to Farm program to any veteran seeking knowledge in a wide variety of agricultural topics."

"Thank you! I feel that this program has changed the way we will farm in the future."

Ann with goat Participants in the Armed to Farm training held in Jackson, Miss., Sept. 22-26, 2014.

What is Armed to Farm?

Armed to Farm is Sustainable Agriculture Training for Military Veterans.

NCAT has been involved in targeted veteran outreach and assistance since 2010. NCAT agriculture specialists have hosted and been involved in at least 17 veteran focused trainings, reaching over 800 veterans across the US.

NCAT has partnered with the USDA Agricultural Research Service, Farmer Veteran Coalition, University of Arkansas, Growing Warriors, and other sustainable agriculture organizations to train veterans interested in sustainable agriculture careers.

The goals of Armed to Farm are:

  • To train veterans and their partners to operate sustainable crop and livestock enterprises
  • To create a network of veterans and their families who are starting careers in sustainable agriculture
  • To provide technical assistance to participants as they start and improve their farming operations

Trainings range in length from conference presentations, two-day workshops, and week-long training events. The multi-day programs include a mix of educational classes — covering topics such as risk management, business planning, and marketing—and hands-on activities at successful livestock, crop, and agritourism operations.

NCAT Sustainable Agriculture specialists will teach the training sessions. Additional contributors will include staff from the University of Arkansas, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and experienced crop and livestock producers.

Contact Margo Hale at 479-442-9824 or margoh@ncat.org for more information about Armed to Farm

Please note:

  • Attendees are responsible for their travel to and from the event. Please let us know if travel cost is an issue.
  • Space is limited and NCAT reserves the right to select those people it deems would benefit most by this event.

Partners:

 

USDA logo ATTRA Logo

Funding for Armed to Farm has come from NCAT's ATTRA - Sustainable Agriculture program, USDA Rural Business Cooperative Services, USDA Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, projects with the University of Arkansas and Cornell University, USDA Risk Management Agency and Swords to Plowshares.

 


 

Armed to Farm News

Armed to Farm: 2019 Year in Review

Armed to Farm: 2019 Year in Review

Our 2019 Armed to Farm (ATF) trainings came to a close back in October, after a record seven week-long events. We held our first ATF in the Midwest, and marked a milestone – our 20th training. We also introduced Armed to Farm 2.0, a next-level training created just for Armed to Farm alumni. Want to learn more about how we spent our year? Read on for details about each event, and find out where we’ll be in 2020!

Winter Armed to Farm Events

Fayetteville, Arkansas

We held our first event of the year in Fayetteville, Arkansas, from February 25 to March 1, 2019. It was our first Armed to Farm “2.0,” and the entire Southeast Regional Office staff pitched in to help. NCAT Northeast Regional Director Andy Pressman came down to help as well.

This training was open to veterans who had previously attended an Armed to Farm. We had a great group of 18 participants, from 10 states, for the week. They represented nine Armed to Farm trainings from 2013-2018. While Armed to Farm provides a great introduction to and broad overview of many different sustainable farming topics, we structured the 2.0 training to have more in-depth discussions on farm management and production topics. Of course, we couldn’t have an Armed to Farm training without farm visits! Our participants braved very cold, wet weather to visit livestock and vegetable operations. Read more about the week on the NCAT Southeast blog.

Spring Armed to Farm Events

Dave Scott, right, and his wife Jenny demonstrate how to check a lamb’s body condition.

Bozeman, Montana

Tammy Howard, with help from several other staff from NCAT’s Rocky Mountain West office, led an Armed to Farm in Bozeman from April 8-12. Despite the cold, snowy, and rainy weather, participants visited several farms. Tours included a small-scale organic market garden; a veteran-owned farm producing fiber, milk, and meat from Icelandic sheep; and a diversified organic farm that produces organic goat cheese, pork, and vegetables.

Tammy started the week with a tour of Nana Louie Farm, where she and her husband, Ben, produce cut flowers. On Thursday the group headed to Montana Highland Lamb, owned by NCAT Livestock Specialist Dave Scott and his wife, Jenny. Participants learned about intensive rotational grazing, moving electric fence, and more. It was great to have Natural Resources Conservation Service staff (NRCS) play a prominent role in this training. A district conservationist who had worked with farms attended a few of the field visits. A soil conservationist also talked about soil and how to look for farmland with good soil. For the final day, the NRCS, Farm Service Agency and Rural Development spoke about the different programs for beginning veteran farmers.

Crawfordsville, Indiana

Armed to Farm attendees inside a high tunnel.
Sara Creech, far right, leads Armed to Farm attendees on a tour of her Indiana farm.

In May, NCAT Southeast Regional Director Margo Hale and Armed to Farm Coordinator Robyn Metzger traveled to Crawfordsville, Indiana, to lead our 20th Armed to Farm training. Andy joined them for the first two days. We were thrilled to partner with Armed to Farm alumnus Sara Creech. Sara farms near Crawfordsville, IN, and serves as President of the Farmer Veteran Coalition of Indiana. Cindy Chastain, Veteran Outreach Coordinator for AgrAbility, also helped plan the week’s activities. They did an amazing job finding farms for our group to visit and securing speakers from USDA, Farm Credit, and more. Highlights of the training included a visit to the Purdue Student Farm and Sara’s place, Blue Yonder Organic Farm. We were excited to hold our first Armed to Farm in the Midwest, and it was a great week. Read more about it on our blog here.

Summer Armed to Farm Events

Craftsbury Common, Vermont

NCAT Southeast’s Nina Prater returned to her home state of Vermont in June to help Andy and NCAT Northeast’s Lee Rinehart with an Armed to Farm in Craftsbury Common. NCAT collaborated with Sterling College and the Farmer Veteran Coalition of Vermont to plan and host this event. Participants stayed at Sterling College and enjoyed the school’s fabulous facilities, food, and farm. Highlights of the training included meeting the College’s draft animals and visiting a state-of-the-art sugaring operation. We visited other great farms in the area that are using different sustainable production practices to grow vegetables, mushrooms, fruits, pastured chicken, and dairy products for local markets.

Victor, New York

A mini-reunion of New York Armed to Farm alumni. From left: David LaValley (NY 2015), Susan Orellana-Clark (NY 2016), Margo Hale, Matt Van Heusen (NY 2016), and Andy Pressman.

Margo, Andy, and Lee traveled to Victor, New York, in August for our fourth Armed to Farm in that state. Kara Kroeger from NCAT’s Southwest office came to experience her first Armed to Farm and gave a presentation on food safety. We’re thankful for our partners at Cornell University’s Small Farms Program and the Canandaigua VA Medical Center’s Whole Health Program. We had a week of great instruction and inspiring farm tours. We also had an amazing farm to table dinner one night where three NY ATF alumni joined us.

The farm visits included a stop at Bristol Hills Lavender and Flower Farm. Owner Susan Orellana-Clark attended Armed to Farm in 2016. It was great to hear from her and see how her operation has grown. We did some fantastic hands-on activities, including a mushroom log inoculation session. Everyone got to go home with their own shitake log. We also harvested a lot of garlic!

Helena, Montana

Also in August, Tammy hosted the intensive, two-day Armed to Farm 2.0: A Lean Canvas Business Planning Workshop. Twelve Armed to Farm alumni from the Northwest received in-depth business planning instruction. Two of the alumni presented on their experiences since Armed to Farm. They shared how they have adjusted their farm goals. At the end of the training, each participant presented their next steps and two short-term goals they plan to pursue.

Autumn Armed to Farm Events

Cleveland, Ohio

Cleveland Armed to Urban Farm attendees learned about high tunnel maintenance.

September and October brought the final two Armed to Farm trainings of 2019. NCAT teamed up with the US Botanic Garden (USBG) to conduct Armed to Urban Farm in Cleveland from September 9-13. This was the second Armed to Urban Farm that NCAT has hosted in partnership with the USBG. Twenty-two veterans attended, with a majority of them coming from the Great Lakes Region and other parts of Ohio. Morning classroom sessions took place at the beautiful Cleveland Botanical Garden. During the classroom sessions, guest presenters talked about urban soils, cooperatives, legal issues, food safety, and beekeeping. Representatives from USDA-NRCS, USDA-FSA, and USDA Rural Development spoke about their programs. Andy presented on whole-farm planning, goal setting, urban soils, and small-scale intensive vegetable production. Margo led a session on recordkeeping. NCAT Western’s Jamie Fanous traveled from California to help as well.

During the farm tours, participants learned about compost management, season extension, aquaponics, intensive vegetable production, and urban wine production. They also had the opportunity to put new plastic on a high tunnel. They got their hands dirty helping farms prepare for fall plantings and cover crops. It was an amazing week and a fantastic group!

Geneva, New York

Nina joined Andy, Daniel, and Tammy in Geneva, New York, for an Armed to Farm 2.0. NCAT presented the training in partnership with Cornell’s Small Farms Program and the Canandaigua VA. At this 2.0, the attendees receive more in-depth training on business planning, marketing, and production topics. Ellen Polishuk, a well-known sustainable agriculture educator and author of Start Your Farm, led one session. She spent a morning talking about farm financials and recordkeeping with the group. The group divided up into three tracks for farm visits—fruits and vegetables, livestock, and agroforestry. This allowed participants to focus on the enterprises most relevant to their farms. Bringing the alumni together again for more learning, support, and fun makes for a great week.

Armed to Farm Videos

Andy Pressman, left, leads a group exercise during the Armed to Urban Farm in Cleveland, OH.

To see examples of Armed to Farm trainings and hear from some of our alumni, check out our videos! See Armed to Farm Introduction and NCAT Armed to Farm: Helping Military Veterans Build Sustainable Agricultural Operations. NCAT staffers shot videos during a few Armed to Farm trainings, including Armed to Farm New York and Armed to Urban Farm in Cleveland. You can also view clips from the Armed to Farm in Bozeman on our Armed to Farm Facebook video page.

Looking Ahead to 2020

NCAT’s Armed to Farm team has several events on the calendar for 2020! We’ll bring the training to Georgia, New Mexico, Maryland, Washington, Arkansas, and New York. Stay tuned for announcements about the application periods for those trainings. Follow us on Facebook or sign up here to receive email notifications.

Did You Know?

You don’t have to attend an Armed to Farm training to receive FREE information and technical assistance from sustainable agriculture specialists! ATTRA Sustainable Agriculture is here to help, regardless of whether you’ve attended one of our trainings. Access our publications, podcasts, webinars, and hundreds of other resources on our website, www.attra.ncat.org. You can contact our expert staff members with farming questions by calling 1-800-346-9140 or emailing askanag@ncat.org.

Milestones and a Reunion at Armed to Farm Indiana

Milestones and a Reunion at Armed to Farm Indiana

We completed our twentieth Armed to Farm training, and our first in the Midwest U.S., back in May! We were excited to partner with Farmer Veteran Coalition of Indiana and AgrAbility to host a group of 18 veterans in Crawfordsville, Indiana, May 13-17. It was great to reconnect with Sara Creech, alumnus of our very… Continue Reading

Applications Open for Armed to Urban Farm in Cleveland, OH

Applications Open for Armed to Urban Farm in Cleveland, OH

In partnership with the United States Botanic Garden (USBG) and Holden Forests & Gardens, NCAT is bringing the week-long Armed to Farm (ATF) veterans training to Cleveland, Ohio, for a special event focused on urban farming. Armed to Urban Farm will give military veterans an opportunity to see sustainable, profitable small-scale farming enterprises and learn… Continue Reading

NCAT Southeast Hosts Inaugural Armed to Farm 2.0

NCAT Southeast Hosts Inaugural Armed to Farm 2.0

We held our first Armed to Farm 2.0 in Fayetteville, Arkansas, February 25-March 1, 2019. This training was open to veterans who had previously attended one of our Armed to Farm training events. We had a fantastic group of 18 participants, from 10 states, for the week. They represented nine Armed to Farm events from… Continue Reading

Applications Available for Indiana Armed to Farm Veteran Training

Applications Available for Indiana Armed to Farm Veteran Training

The National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) is now accepting applications from military veterans who want to attend our week-long Armed to Farm (ATF) training. ATF allows veterans and their spouses to experience sustainable, profitable small-scale farming enterprises and explore agriculture as a viable career. About Armed to Farm ATF’s engaging blend of farm tours,… Continue Reading

Meeting with a Mission: Helping Veterans Succeed in Agriculture

Meeting with a Mission: Helping Veterans Succeed in Agriculture

NCAT Southeast Regional Director Margo Hale and Armed to Farm Coordinator Robyn Metzger recently traveled to Kansas City for the Farmer Veteran Coalition (FVC) Stakeholders Conference. Following is their report on the trip. From November 14-17, we joined hundreds of farmer-veterans, representatives from government agencies, and other support organizations at the FVC Stakeholders Conference. These… Continue Reading

A look back at the California Armed to Farm 2018

We finally did it! We brought NCAT’s Armed to Farm (ATF) training to California. The first California Armed to Farm training was host to 27 individual beginning farmers representing all branches of the military. Some came from as far away as Arizona and Washington in their efforts to bridge the gap between the military service… Continue Reading

Applications Open for Armed to Urban Farm in Washington, D.C.

Applications Open for Armed to Urban Farm in Washington, D.C.

In partnership with the United States Botanic Garden (USBG), NCAT is bringing the week-long Armed to Farm (ATF) training to Washington, D.C., for a special event focused on urban farming. Armed to Urban Farm will give veterans an opportunity to see sustainable, profitable small-scale farming enterprises and learn about urban farming as a viable career.… Continue Reading

Applications Available for Armed to Farm in New Hampshire

Applications Available for Armed to Farm in New Hampshire

Deadline to Apply is April 27 The National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) is bringing its Armed to Farm training to New Hampshire. Armed to Farm gives military veterans an opportunity to learn about transitioning to a farming life. Armed to Farm combines engaging classroom sessions with farm tours and hands-on activities. Participants learn about… Continue Reading