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 three days of educational sessions, panel discussions, and networking focused on helping veterans succeed in whatever agriculture venture they want to pursue.

Our booth in the exhibit hall stayed busy! We talked with attendees about NCAT’s ATTRA Sustainable Agriculture program resources and about Armed to Farm, NCAT’s sustainable agriculture training for military veterans. We met veterans from around the country who are interested in farming or who have started their own farms. Several have started farms as a way to teach their fellow veterans about agriculture and as a way to help them heal from physical, mental, and emotional wounds. It was a privilege to meet and learn from all of the veterans. Their passion and drive to succeed as farmers and to give back to their communities is inspiring.

Information Exchange

We enjoyed talking with colleagues from AgrAbility, North Central Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE), Rodale Institute, and Farm Credit. It was great to see our former NCAT coworker Marisa Alcorta, who now serves as California Farm Academy Apprenticeship Program Manager with the Center for Land-Based Learning. We appreciated the chance to talk with Brent Elrod of USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Representatives from other USDA agencies such as the Farm Service Agency (FSA), Risk Management Agency (RMA), and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) also shared information. It was exciting to learn more about all the programs around the country and discover opportunities for collaboration.

We were also grateful to meet Bill Ashton, USDA Military Veterans Agricultural Liaison. He took time to speak with us about ways that NCAT and USDA can continue to work together to support farmer veterans.

Impromptu Armed to Farm Reunion

Group photo of veterans and staff at NCAT exhibit hall booth.
A great group! A few of the Armed to Farm alumni who were at the conference are missing from the photo—we’ll get them next time!

One of the best aspects of the trip was seeing the Armed to Farm alumni who were there. We got to catch up with 12 alumni who have attended Armed to Farm trainings over the past five years. It was fun to reconnect with them and introduce them to each other. We even remembered to take a few photos! We were thrilled to see Armed to Farm alumni Sara Creech, of Blue Yonder Organic Farm, and Lovay Wallace-Singleton, of Veterans Employment Base Camp and Organic Garden, speak as part of panel discussion sessions during the conference.

The conference schedule was packed with activities. Between the exhibit hall, plenary sessions, breakout sessions, and group meals (which were very tasty!) we were engaged from early morning to late evening. Although the days were long, we came away from the conference encouraged and energized to continue this shared mission of helping veterans achieve their agriculture goals.

For More Information

Many thanks to Michael O’Gorman and the Farmer Veteran Coalition (FVC) team for hosting this great conference! For more information about the FVC, visit farmvetco.org.

Find free resources from ATTRA Sustainable Agriculture—including publications, podcasts, videos, tutorials, and more—at attra.ncat.org. Contact our sustainable agriculture specialists for free technical assistance at 1-800-346-9140 or askanag@ncat.org.

Visit ncat.org/armedtofarm for more information about NCAT’s Armed to Farm program.

NCAT Southeast is on Facebook! Follow us at https://www.facebook.com/NCATSoutheast/ for updates on our activities, event announcements, and links to resources.

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