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
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
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.
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
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!
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
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.