Food Tank’s Featured Organizations Helping Veterans

Photo © Patty O’Brien | www.summercrowphotos.com

Photo © Patty O’Brien | www.summercrowphotos.com

Veteran’s Day has come and gone, but we support our nation’s veterans all year long. To celebrate the recent holiday, Food Tank posted an article featuring 21 organizations around the world that are dedicated to cultivating a community of veterans working in farming and agriculture. The list was just too good not to share, highlighting many organizations that are already featured in Farm Aid’s Farmer Resource Network.

The following was taken directly from Food Tank’s “21 Projects Helping Vets Through Food and Agriculture:”

Armed to Farm (ATF) is a National Center for Appropriate Technology program that provides training on sustainable agriculture to veterans. ATF is a combination of farm tours and classroom instruction that focuses on business planning, livestock production, and fruit and vegetable production.

Combat Boots to Cowboy Boots is a University of Nebraska-Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture program that prepares veterans to work in the agricultural field through education and training. The program helps match the participants with farm and ranch owners.

Community Youth Network Program (CYNP) was founded by former Liberian soldier, Junior Toe, to give purpose to ex-combatants trying to reintegrate into society. Toe teaches former soldiers to raise poultry, grow produce, and earn money through farming to support their families. CYNP also runs a Young Farmers Forum to create a community for its members.

Delaware Valley College Organic Farming Program for Military and Vets is a one-year certification program offered through Delaware Valley College and Rodale Institute that trains veterans in organic farming in order to transition them back to civilian life. Students take courses in subjects such as commercial vegetable production, sustainable agriculture, and plant health management.

Eat the Yard, in Dallas, Texas, was founded by Iraq War veterans, James Jeffers and Steve Smith, to cultivate fresh produce in community gardens. Jeffers and Smith first began organic farming in their own backyards for both therapeutic and financial reasons, then slowly began to build more gardens in their community. They now sell the produce from these gardens to local restaurants and businesses.

Farmer Field Schools (FFS) was developed in post-conflict northern Uganda, by the International Institute of Rural Reconstruction (IIRR) in partnership with the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). The program teaches modern agricultural skills to Ugandan refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs). The training emphasizes practice-oriented learning and small group meetings based on similar interests. Upon graduation, smallholder farmers are awarded a grant to start their own agricultural enterprise.

The Farmer Veteran Coalition (FVC) is working with veterans across the U.S. to transition into agriculture. The Coalition partners veterans with mentors who are experienced in farming and business, matches them with job opportunities in agriculture, and organizes equipment donations in Iowa and California. FVC is helping former members of the armed forces in 48 states.

Goat Peak Ranch is a ranch in New Mexico that offers a Veterans Internship Program. The Program offers weekend and weeklong educational sessions and accepts veterans to assist on the ranch year-round.

Heroic Food is a tuition-free farmer-training program for military veterans in partnership with the FVC. Heroic Food places veterans in paid on-farm apprenticeships and teaches them about sustainable farming, agricultural trade, and food crafting.

Lucky Nickel Ranch, owned by a Marine Corps veteran, serves as both an organic farm and a classroom for veterans. The program partners with the University of Arizona College of Life Sciences and Extension in order to provide both training and classroom time, where participants learn about the science of farming and how to write a business plan.

Roots to Road is a program operated by the Vancouver-based job training agency Partners in Careers. The program employs veterans to farm a one-acre plot; the produce is then donated to local charities.

Semper Fresh Farms is run by two U.S. Marine Corps veterans. The farm works in conjunction with veterans’ organizations such as the FVC in order to train and employ veterans.

Vets to Ag is a program at Michigan State University that trains homeless U.S. veterans to work in the field of agriculture. Participants are trained in areas such as plant and soil science, equipment operation, and integrated pest management. Job development and employer outreach is included in the Vets to Ag program.

Veterans Agricultural Center of Connecticut (VACC) provides both training and therapy to veterans. VACC provides hands-on instruction in farming skills for participants as well as full-service handicap accessible lodging and employment services.

Veterans to Farmers (VTF) strives to bring family farming back to the forefront of the American landscape. VTF was founded by U.S. Marine Corps Veteran Buck Adams in 2011 after overwhelming veteran interest in his organic greenhouse program. Veterans complete a 12-week program, then VTF provides employment support. Several of the VTF graduates now own their own greenhouses, including Evan Premer who describes the greenhouse as a “decompression zone.”

Veteran Farmers of America (VFA) helps veterans make a transition back to civilian life by introducing them to farming. VFA provides veterans with paid internships and places them at a vegan-operated farm.

Veteran Farmers Project is a Center for Rural Affairs program that gives veterans, almost a million of whom come from rural communities, an opportunity to return to their agricultural roots and reinvigorate America’s small farms. The Project provides veterans with agricultural education to help them succeed as farmers.

Veterans Farm Veterans Training Program is partnered with the Veteran Network on Farming and Success to train veterans in all aspects of agriculture. Students in this program learn how to improve irrigation and produce quality organic crops. Veteran farmers receive training in operations management, organic certification, and management skills.

Veterans Sustainable Agriculture Training (VSAT) Program trains transitioning service men and women in all aspects of agriculture and food production, including hydroponics, environmental control, and greenhouse management during a six-week intensive course. The program also assists more than 200 graduates in job placement and business creation.

Warriors that Farm works with Texas A&M University in order to provide opportunities for veterans through sustainable agriculture. The university provides credit hours upon completion of the program.

317 Village in Chhuk District, Kampot Province is a Cambodian government-funded initiative that has committed US $3 million to provide 240 families of military veterans and disabled war victims with houses and plots of land to farm. Each plot measures approximately 1.5 acres. This project is providing new hope to families whose homes and livelihoods were destroyed by civil war.

2014 WFAN Conference Announcement

The Women, Food and Agriculture Network (WFAN) annual conference is available for registration! The event will be held at the Fairfield Arts and Convention Center in Fairfield, Iowa from November 14-15. This year’s annual conference includes field tours, pesticide drift training, workshops, farm-to-table restaurant tour and much more!

If you’re interested in registering for the 2014 WFAN conference, visit http://wfan.org for more information.

Finding USDA grant and loan opportunities

The most difficult form of aid for farmers to reach is by way of funding. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and many of its associated agencies have grant and loan opportunities available for farmers. Check out the programs below to see if any are right for you, and get those applications in before it’s too late.

Rural Development:

Rural Energy for America Program

Eligibility:

  • Agricultural producer or rural small business
  • Additional restrictions may apply

This program is intended to help “install renewable energy systems such as solar panels or anaerobic digesters, make energy efficiency improvements such as installing irrigation pumps or replacing ventilation systems, and conduct energy audits and feasibility studies.” There are three grant or loan programs under the Rural Energy for America Program including The Renewable Energy System and Energy Efficiency Improvement Guaranteed Loan and Grant Program, The Energy Audit and Renewable Energy Development Assistance Grant Program and The Feasibility Studies Grant Program.

National Resources Conservation Services Financial Assistance Programs: 

Environmental Quality Incentives Program

Eligibility:

  • Control or own eligible land
  • Comply with adjusted gross income limitation provisions
  • Be in compliance with the highly erodible and wetland conservation requirements
  • Develop a National Resources Conservation Services Environmental Quality Incentives Program plan of operations

This program is intended to provide support for producers and landowners working to “deliver environmental benefits such as improved water and air quality, conserved ground and surface water, reduced soil erosion and sedimentation or improved or created wildlife habitat.”

Conservation Stewardship Program

Eligibility:

  • Control or own eligible lands
  • Agree to meet or exceed stewardship threshold for at least one additional priority resource concern by end of contract
  • Additional restrictions may apply

Funding from the Conservation Stewardship Program is meant to support producers in the maintenance and improvement of conservation systems and activities. Payments are made based on “conservation performance.”

Agricultural Management Assistance Program

Eligibility:

  • A producer in one of the following states: Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia or Wyoming
  •  Own or control eligible lands
  • Agree to implement and maintain conservation practices for the life of the practice

This program is designed to assist producers with conservation as a means to manage risk and address resource issues.

Farm Service Agency Loans:

Click here to find your local Farm Service Agency.

Farm Operating Loans and Microloans

What it’s for: Livestock and feed; farm equipment; fuel, farm chemicals, insurance and other operating costs, including family living expenses; minor improvements or repairs to buildings; refinance certain farm-related debts, excluding real estate

Farm Ownership Loans

What it’s for: Purchase farmland; construct and repair buildings; make farm improvements

Emergency Farm Loans

What it’s for: Restore or replace essential property; pay all or part of production costs associated with the disaster year; pay essential family living expenses; reorganize the farming operation; refinance certain debts, excluding real estate.

Rural Youth Loans

What it’s for: These loans are designed to support individual youths in their projects through 4-H clubs, FFA or other like-minded organizations. These loans can be used to fund the purchase of livestock, seed equipment and supplies; the purchase, rent or repair of needed tools and equipment; operating expenses for the project.

Note that some Farm Service Agency loans are appropriated to assist minority or women farmers and beginning farmers and ranchers.

National Institute of Food and Agriculture Grants Available to Individuals:

Agriculture Food Research Initiative – Foundational Program: Agriculture Economics and Rural Communities

Application Deadline: 4/28/2014

Eligibility:

  • 1862 Land-Grant Institutions
  • 1890 Land-Grant Institutions
  • 1994 Land-Grant Institutions
  • For-profit Organizations Other Than Small Businesses
  • Hispanic-Serving Institutions
  • Individuals
  • Native American Tribal Orgs, not Federally recognized Tribal Governments
  • Nonprofits with 501(c)(3) IRS status, other than Institutions of Higher Ed
  • Nonprofits without 501(c)(3) IRS status, other than Institutions of Higher Ed
  • Other or Additional Information (See below)
  • Small Business
  • State Agricultural Experiment Stations
  • State Controlled Institutions of Higher Ed

The purpose of the grant is to expand on research and analysis of sustainable agricultural practices in rural areas.

Agriculture and Food Research Initiative – Foundational Program: Agriculture Economics and Rural Communities

Application Deadline: 4/28/2014

Eligibility:

  • 1862 Land-Grant Institutions
  • 1890 Land-Grant Institutions
  • 1994 Land-Grant Institutions
  • For-profit Organizations Other Than Small Businesses
  • Hispanic-Serving Institutions
  • Individuals
  • Nonprofits with 501(c)(3) IRS status, other than Institutions of Higher Ed
  • Nonprofits without 501(c)(3) IRS status, other than Institutions of Higher Ed
  • Other or Additional Information (See below)
  • Private Institutions of Higher Ed
  • Small Business
  • State Agricultural Experiment Stations
  • State Controlled Institutions of Higher Ed

Its purpose is to discover innovative ideas strategies to sustainably improve the quality of rural life and/or agricultural production.

Agriculture and Food Research Initiative – Foundational Program: Animal Health and Production and Animal Products

Application Deadline: 5/1/2014

Eligibility:

  • 1862 Land-Grant Institutions
  • 1890 Land-Grant Institutions
  • 1994 Land-Grant Institutions
  • For-profit Organizations Other Than Small Businesses
  • Hispanic-Serving Institutions
  • Individuals
  • Nonprofits with 501(c)(3) IRS status, other than Institutions of Higher Ed
  • Nonprofits without 501(c)(3) IRS status, other than Institutions of Higher Ed
  • Other or Additional Information (See below)
  • Private Institutions of Higher Ed
  • Small Business
  • State Agricultural Experiment Stations
  • State Controlled Institutions of Higher Ed

Applicants of this grant should intend to tackle an area of the Program Area Priorities in the Animal Health and Production and Animal Products. For more information and a complete description click on the link above.

Agriculture and Food Research Initiative – Food Security

Application Deadline: 6/12/2014

Eligibility:

  • 1862 Land-Grant Institutions
  • 1890 Land-Grant Institutions
  • 1994 Land-Grant Institutions
  • For-profit Organizations Other Than Small Businesses
  • Hispanic-Serving Institutions
  • Individuals
  • Native American Tribal Orgs, not Federally recognized Tribal Governments
  • Nonprofits with 501(c)(3) IRS status, other than Institutions of Higher Ed
  • Nonprofits without 501(c)(3) IRS status, other than Institutions of Higher Ed
  • Other or Additional Information (See below)
  • Private Institutions of Higher Ed
  • Small Business
  • State Agricultural Experiment Stations
  • State Controlled Institutions of Higher Ed

The grant is designed to support projects that develop and enhance “sustainable, integrated management strategies that reduce pre and post-harvest losses caused by diseases, insects and weeds in crop and animal production systems.”

Agriculture and Food Research Initiative – Foundational Program: Critical Agricultural Research and Extension

Application Deadline: 8/7/2014

Eligibility:

  • 1862 Land-Grant Institutions
  • 1890 Land-Grant Institutions
  • 1994 Land-Grant Institutions
  • For-profit Organizations Other Than Small Businesses
  • Hispanic-Serving Institutions
  • Individuals
  • Nonprofits with 501(c)(3) IRS status, other than Institutions of Higher Ed
  • Nonprofits without 501(c)(3) IRS status, other than Institutions of Higher Ed
  • Other or Additional Information (See below)
  • Private Institutions of Higher Ed
  • Small Business
  • State Agricultural Experiment Stations
  • State Controlled Institutions of Higher Ed

Its intent is to immediately implement solutions related to critical problems behind efficient production through partnerships among “researchers, extension experts and producers.”

Agriculture and Food Research Initiative – Dual Purpose with Dual Benefit: Research in Biomedicine and Agriculture Using Agriculturally Important Domestic Species

Application Deadline: 9/24/2014

Eligibility:

  • 1862 Land-Grant Institutions
  • 1890 Land-Grant Institutions
  • 1994 Land-Grant Institutions
  • For-profit Organizations Other Than Small Businesses
  • Hispanic-Serving Institutions
  • Individuals
  • Nonprofits with 501(c)(3) IRS status, other than Institutions of Higher Ed
  • Nonprofits without 501(c)(3) IRS status, other than Institutions of Higher Ed
  • Other or Additional Information (See below)
  • Private Institutions of Higher Ed
  • State Agricultural Experiment Stations
  • State Controlled Institutions of Higher Ed

The purpose of this funding is to “utilize agriculturally important domestic species to improve human health and animal agriculture through the advancement of basic and translational research deemed highly relevant to both agricultural and biomedical research.”

Agriculture and Food Research Initiative – Foundational Program: Exploratory

Application Deadline: 9/30/2014

Eligibility:

  • 1862 Land-Grant Institutions
  • 1890 Land-Grant Institutions
  • 1994 Land-Grant Institutions
  • For-profit Organizations Other Than Small Businesses
  • Hispanic-Serving Institutions
  • Individuals
  • Nonprofits with 501(c)(3) IRS status, other than Institutions of Higher Ed
  • Nonprofits without 501(c)(3) IRS status, other than Institutions of Higher Ed
  • Other or Additional Information (See below)
  • Private Institutions of Higher Ed
  • Small Business
  • State Agricultural Experiment Stations
  • State Controlled Institutions of Higher Ed

Funding is intended to enhance “innovative ideas” that will place the US in the forefront of the worldwide agricultural industry.

Agriculture and Food Research Initiative – Foundational Program

Application Deadline: 9/30/2014

Eligibility:

  • 1862 Land-Grant Institutions
  • 1890 Land-Grant Institutions
  • 1994 Land-Grant Institutions
  • For-profit Organizations Other Than Small Businesses
  • Hispanic-Serving Institutions
  • Individuals
  • Native American Tribal Orgs, not Federally recognized Tribal Governments
  • Nonprofits with 501(c)(3) IRS status, other than Institutions of Higher Ed
  • Nonprofits without 501(c)(3) IRS status, other than Institutions of Higher Ed
  • Other or Additional Information (See below)
  • Private Institutions of Higher Ed
  • Small Business
  • State Agricultural Experiment Stations
  • State Controlled Institutions of Higher Ed

This program is to support grants in one of six Agriculture and Food Research Initiative priority areas, which include: “Plant Health and Production and Plant Products; Animal Health and Production and Animal Products; Food Safety, Nutrition, and Health; Renewable Energy, Natural Resources, and Environment; Agriculture Systems and Technology; and Agriculture Economics and Rural Communities.”

 This information was taken from the USDA website. For more information visit: http://1.usa.gov/1hTfobz

 

Food and farm webinar roundup

What is a webinar, you ask? A webinar is essentially an online educational video that typically discusses a specific topic. Many organizations listed in our Farmer Research Network online search tool provide this type of resource to assist agricultural producers. While some of these webinars require advanced registration, other videos are archived for farmers and ranchers to watch anytime! From conservation tips and tools to learning to start a farm, there are plenty of agriculture webinars available to farmers. Here are some trusted websites with webinars that can help:

National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service (ATTRA) 

ATTRA, a division of the National Center for Appropriate Technology, maintains an ongoing archive of its webinars focused on different areas of sustainable agriculture. Want to learn how to build a better relationship with your lamb processor? How about organic farm conservation? With 55 archived webinars and a growing library, this is the site to visit for all things sustainable.

United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)

Many branches of the USDA developed webinars to assist and educate producers. The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) created a library of various videos related to conservation. These webinars span topics ranging from “Planning for Floodplain and Riparian Area Special Environmental Concerns” to “Conserving Pollinators While Addressing Other Resource Concerns.” Each webinar is hosted by a lineup of experts, many of which are USDA employees.

The USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) developed a series of webinars that air twice a month from January through June of 2014 focusing on farm to school programs. All of these videos are archived in an FNS library in addition to a host of other webinars from the past two years.

The USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service created an ongoing series of fruit and vegetable webinars archived here.

The USDA’s Forest Service developed the “Invasive Plants—Issues, Challenges and Discoveries Webinar Series” intended for landowners, agriculture professionals and scientists. This seven-part series will run through May, 2014, and information on each can be found here.

National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC)

While NSAC doesn’t have a library of archived webinars, the organization hosts several training webinars throughout the year. These training sessions cover many different topics, like how to market your agricultural business through building connections with the media or this overview of cover crops based on updated USDA termination guidelines. To stay up-to-date on the latest NSAC webinar, check out its website or like the organization on Facebook.

Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE)

The different SARE branches created varying series of webinars. North Central SARE offers webinars focusing on greenhouse energy, cover crops, building local sustainable foods and irrigation energy.  Southern SARE provides a webinar on “Grafting for Disease Management in Organic Tomato Production.” Farmers and ranchers can also order archived webinar series from Northeast SARE focusing on marketing for profit or farmland transfer and access.

Women, Food and Agriculture Network (WFAN)

WFAN has a library of webinars that focus on empowering female farmers. These webinars cover a diverse range of topics within this realm, but each is meant to give women the tools they need to succeed. That may be on a policy level, such as the “Policy—When The Personal Becomes Political” video, which engages women leaders to explain how individuals can further policy goals. There are also more abstract videos, like this webinar that discusses the power of blogging.

Farm Commons 

Farm Commons creates and archives webinars focused on dealing with legal issues that can impact farm operations. The organization supplements these videos with downloadable resources. These webinars cover topics relevant to beginning and advanced growers alike, with titles ranging from “ Starting a Farm” to “Community Supported Agriculture Legal Issues.”

Rodale Institute 

While the Rodale Institute hasn’t released any webinars yet, stay tuned! The organization is in the works of creating a schedule of webinar trainings. In the meantime, Rodale developed a page with helpful videos from its conferences and workshops.

 

 

Resource Partners Event Roundup

Center for Rural Affairs

April: The Center for Rural Affairs (CFA) has two events this month. In partnership with The Farmer Veteran Coalition and the Drake University Agricultural Law Center, CFA is hosting the WI Farmer Veterans Tour and Workshop on April 12.  Veterans and family members interested in farming careers are invited to attend this event at Growing Power Farms in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. A tour of the farm and its composting and aquaponics system will be followed by workshops at the farm. Admission is free and seating is limited so register here to reserve your spot!

Also on the 12th is the Farm Dreams Workshop. Women interested in farming and ranching will be able to participate in a four-hour workshop to get a feel for the professions and learn how to take the first steps to enter the field. The workshop takes place at the Syracuse Public Library in Syracuse, Nebraska and costs $5. Participants must register in advance and can contact virginiam@cfra.org or call 402.992.5134.

May: On May 10 the Farm Business Financing Workshop for Women will take place at the Lewis and Clark Center in Nebraska City, Nebraska. The event is an intensive business planning and farm-financing course to help women farmers and ranchers design a business plan and access financing for agricultural operations. Contact virginiam@cfra.org or call 402.992.5134 to register in advance. The event costs $5 and lunch is included.

June: For those thinking about venturing into the farmers market business, the June 7 event Selling at Farmers Markets gives tips and tricks to find the best location, customer base, product, presentation and price to maximize success. Located in Ashland, Nebraska, this event costs $5 and includes lunch. Contact virginiam@cfra.org or call 402.992.5134 to register.

On June 21, Selling Through a CSA will teach women getting started in gardening, farming, and ranching about the advantages of selling through a community supported agriculture system. The workshop will take place at the Webermeier Public Library in Milford, Nebraska. Contact virginiam@cfra.org or call 402.992.5134 to register in advance 

National Center for Appropriate Technology (ATTRA)

April: On April 25 the National Center for Appropriate Technology (ATTRA) will host Entering the Institutional Food Market. Montana farmers, ranchers and processors will be provided information and technical assistance.  Register for this $10 event here by April 20 to reserve a spot.

June: With Montana adopting a new energy code requiring blower door and duct tightness testing for all new homes, there are emerging business opportunities in residential energy efficiency. On June 2, the Home Energy Rater and Energy Star Training in Missoula, Montana will provide comprehensive energy auditor training with an emphasis on new residential construction and the Home Energy Raters rating process. Participants will be prepared to take the tests required to become a certified Home Energy Rater, a Northwest Energy Star Homes Verifier and a Northwest Energy Star Homes Performance Tester. Register online and click here for more details 

Rodale Institute

April: Interested in having your own chickens? On April 26 the Rodale Institute is hosting the Backyard Chickens event to educate those looking to learn how to make chickens a part of their family and get fresh eggs everyday. Participants will learn about cost, breeding, housing, feeding, protecting and handling chickens, as well as leave with a list of recommended books and resources on how to complete this project efficiently. Register ahead of time here.

The Greenhorns

 April: . The future of farmland is unclear. In the next 20 years an expected 400 million acres of U.S. farmland will change hands. On April 26 and 27 Our Land: A Symposium on Farmland Access in the 21st Century at UC Berkeley will delve into the historical context, long-term implications and economic impact and stewardship potential of this impending transition.

May: On May 3 The Greenhorns is hosting Farmland Seekers to provide technical assistance around land and capital access and transition. Attendees will learn essential tools for building and navigating relationships with lenders, investors, landowners, partners, boards, conservation organizations, neighbors and more!

Click here to find out more about our Resource Partners! Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for more news about upcoming events and conferences!

WFAN launches new farmer forum

The Women, Food and Agriculture Network recently launched a new farmer forum for women. The WFAN Online Community is designed for farmers to stay connected and freely discuss a number of different topics related to agriculture free of charge.

Once registered, a user can choose which demographic best suits herself from four provided options: everyone, advocates, farmers or landowners. From there, the forum is intended to help users make more informed, practical decisions through the knowledge and experience of others in a way that strengthens the farmer community.

For more information and to check out the new site, visit: http://network.wfan.org.

To find out more about WFAN, click here to read a recent Growing Change story about the organization.

Growing Change: Women, Food and Agriculture Network

Women are often at a disadvantage in the male-dominated world of agriculture. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only one out of every six full-time farmers, ranchers and other agricultural managers in the U.S. is a woman. But the number of women in agriculture is rapidly increasing, even while the total number of U.S. farmers is starkly declining. The Census of Agriculture found that the amount of women in the field increased by 30 percent from 2002 to 2007.

With those numbers comes a slew of challenges for women farmers—and that’s precisely why The Women, Food and Agriculture Network (WFAN) was created.

Farms and Ranches Operated by Women

WFAN began as a working group in 1994 following the 4thInternational Conference on Women in China, where a small group of people found that they were the first working group to specifically represent women in agriculture. Since then, that small group has grown into the full service organization it is today, offering networking, education and leadership development to American women involved or interested in agriculture. “The importance behind the group was and still is empowering women, but in the realm of healthy food and farming,” Executive Director Leigh Adcock explains.

Leigh shares that female farmers experience three kinds of isolation: geographical isolation from residing in rural areas, cultural isolation related to working in a male-dominated field and the social isolation related to both of these conditions. WFAN stands as an outlet to provide support for women facing social stigma, while also assisting with problems that all farmers face, such as access to land or capital or adopting conservation practices.

Farm Aid first teamed up with WFAN in 2008, following a devastating flood in the Midwest that threatened farm families across the region. After connecting with our farm advocate, Joel Morton, the two organizations joined forces to build a coalition of groups working on relief efforts. Farm Aid President Willie Nelson visited Leigh shortly after to deliver a $10,000 check in support of that critical work. Since then, WFAN remains one of Farm Aid’s trusted referrals in our Farmer Resource Network.

Willie Nelson & Leigh AdcockWillie Nelson meets with Leigh Adcock to discuss helping Midwestern farmers cope with flooding in 2008.

WFAN works not only with experienced farmers, but also farmwives, non-farming landowners, beginning farmers and women connected to agriculture that are interested in leadership roles. Its three programs are designed to address the different needs of these women: Harvesting our Potential, Women Caring for the Land, and Plate to Politics.

Harvesting Our Potential is the oldest program WFAN offers. This experiential program connects women interested in entering farming with internship opportunities where they can work on an Iowa farm under the leadership of a skilled mentor for 8 to 12 weeks. The organization continues to provide this unique service that is mutually beneficial to both the aspiring and experienced farmers for networking and business planning.

In the state of Iowa, where WFAN is headquartered, women own or co-own about 50 percent of farmland. Women Caring for the Land, is a conservation manual for non-operator landowners, catered to women with any level of education. Though comprehensible and accessible for women of all ages, it is specifically designed as a useful tool to reach the growing population of landowners 65-years-old or older, to ensure ongoing conservation of their land.

Plate to Politics is an emerging addition to WFAN’s services in collaboration with the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service, designed to connect women with leadership roles nationwide “from the farmhouse to the White House,” as Leigh puts it. Today, women win elections at the same rate as men. The only reason more women don’t run for office, Leigh maintains, is because they aren’t asked to or don’t consider themselves viable candidates. Plate for Politics acts as a platform to empower women involved in food and agriculture with the tools needed to confidently step into leadership roles. “I think empowering women is really crucial,” Leigh shares. “Having women involved in food and farm policy is going to change the way we farm and the way we treat our land and our health.”

Farm Aid recently supported the Plate for Politics program with a $5,000 grant. This grant enabled WFAN to create a series of six webinars available online to educate women on how they can serve as food and farm leaders.

With the recent rapid growth of the organization, WFAN hopes to assess its program areas for potential new projects, such as training on how to access subsidies to health care.

To stay connected with the women WFAN works with, the organization hosts potlucks and an annual conference. This year, the 4th National Conference for Women in Sustainable Agriculture will take place from November 6 – 8 in Des Moines, Iowa.

Learn More

Growing Change — Farmer Veteran Coalition

From serving the nation in the military to serving the nation food and fiber, many U.S. veterans are returning from combat to jobs in agriculture. Farming—with its taxing schedule and intense physical labor demands—is a good fit for such a hardworking and dedicated group.

Today, there are over 23 million veterans in the United States. Agriculture can provide an important source of income for veterans, particularly at a time when unemployment rates have skyrocketed. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, throughout 2012 veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan had an unemployment rate of 9.9 percent—compared to about 7.9 percent for the general U.S. population. Particularly hard hit are female post-9/11 veterans with an unemployment rate of 12.5 percent. All in all, there are more than 200,000 unemployed Iraq and Afghanistan veterans in this country.

That’s where the Farmer Veteran Coalition (FVC) comes in. Their mission is to mobilize veterans to work in sustainable farming jobs, creating a smooth transition into civilian life. Michael O’Gorman founded the organization and is its current leader, with 40-plus years under his belt as an organic farmer. He started FVC because of two converging trends: the aging farmer population in the U.S., and the high unemployment rate of veterans. Helping recent veterans find farming jobs hit the two issues with one stone, and FVC was created in 2008. The organization has taken off and now works with 1,000 veterans in 48 states.

Farmer Veteran Coalition

Tia Christopher is chief of staff at FVC. She says that while some of the organization’s veterans grew up on farms or have an agricultural connection, this is not universally the case. “Some of them get a brilliant idea that they want to be farmers, even though they have no experience whatsoever,” she says. They come from different professional backgrounds, geographic locations and military experiences. FVC finds a unique opportunity for each returning veteran through one of its many programs.

FVC is chock full of programming, from farm retreats, to financial planning and business courses, to a small grants program that helps aspiring farmer veterans build up their initial infrastructure. Another FVC program is the farm equipment exchange and donation program, or FEED, where individuals or dealers can donate used or new farm equipment to the organization. This equipment is given to disabled or financially challenged veteran farmers.

The FVC staff members represent all of the military branches (except for the Coast Guard). Being veterans themselves makes the organization’s work personal. “For us as veterans they’re our peers, they’re our brothers and sisters and so we really care about the people who contact us,” Tia says. This dedication and passion shows with each and every veteran they help.

One veteran in particular who stands out for Tia is Mickey Clayton, a single mother who is half Lakota Indian and half Puerto Rican. She is also an Army combat veteran who sustained a severe leg injury in Iraq. Having grown up on a South Dakota reservation among sheep, Mickey became mesmerized by the nomadic Awassi sheepherders in Iraq. Upon returning home, she decided to start a farm with FVC’s help. Now Mickey raises unusual breeds—that garner higher prices—like Navajo-Churro Sheep and Muscovy Ducks on Dot Ranch in Northwestern Oregon. She is one of FVC’s Bob Woodruff Farming Fellows, a program that has helped her secure adaptive farming equipment, making it possible for her to wrangle sheep even with her injury. And if being a single mother and raising all of those breeds wasn’t enough, Mickey also has a successful Etsy business selling her wool.

With Dot Ranch thriving, Mickey is now able to give back. She’s an ambassador for the FVC at Native American sheepherder events, and has ushered other vets into the FVC family. Tia says giving back like this demonstrates the program’s success. “Success for us honestly is when the veterans are able to mentor their peers, employ their peers, and pay it forward.”

The FVC has a strong connection to Farm Aid’s work of supporting the family farmer. Farm Aid was one of FVC’s earliest supporters, granting them $17,000 since 2009 to support their programming, most recently supporting their work training more than 100 veterans in farming skills, offering business planning to 31 veterans, and helping veterans secure legal counseling and disaster assistance in times of crisis. But that’s not all; Farmer Veteran Coalition has a huge presence at the Farm Aid concert each year, as part of the farmer meetings that take place before the concert and as part of the HOMEGROWN Village at the concert. FVC brings farmer veterans to Farm Aid from across the country to network with other farmers and spread the mission of the organization. Tia finds the jovial spirit of the Farm Aid concert conducive for recruiting would-be veteran farmers. “It’s really cool because we get awesome mentors and farmers to sign on with us when we’re at Farm Aid each year,” she says. Last year they recruited a veteran mushroom farmer and an entomologist.

Tia and her colleagues see the importance of the work they do everyday—not only finding employment for veterans, but also encouraging them to keep their spirits up and put their strong sense of service to use. Each and every farmer veteran motivates and inspires Tia. “It is often stated that farming and the military are two of the hardest professions; at FVC we believe that it takes a special type of person to do either, let alone both. I think the quality that’s most important for both is determination, and our farmer veterans have it in droves.” Helping military heroes and growing new farmers makes the Farmer Veteran Coalition a true Farmer Resource Network provider hero!

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Photo above provided courtesy of Jim Carroll Photography.

Farmer Veteran Coalition’s 2nd annual conference for women veterans

The Farmer Veteran Coalition will host “Empowering Women Veterans: Success in Agriculture Business and Well-Being” in Louisville, Kentucky on November 14-17. This is the FVC’s 2nd annual national conference dedicated to women veterans in agriculture. The FVC invites all women veterans, active duty and women farming with veterans to the free event at the Hyatt Regency. The conference will bring together over 100 women from around the nation to build community while learning business skills needed to achieve entrepreneurial goals.

Click here for more information. Click here to register for free and reserve a room at the Hyatt Regency hotel, or email events@farmvetco.org for more information.

Sustainable Farming For Women, By Women

Coming up in August, MOSES, The MidWest Organic and Sustainable Education Service, will be hosting a series of workshops for women. In Her Boots: Sustainable Farming for Women, by Women includes on-farm workshops that provide attendees with skill-building and networking experiences and inspiration to support them in launching a food or farm business. Workshops will be taught by seasoned and beginning female farmers and topics include everything from how to run farm and food-based enterprises and value-added businesses, to land stewardship, risk management through income diversification, and integrating children and family.

Space is very limited, so sign up for workshops as soon as possible—and take advantage of the early bird discount! Click here for more information, or to reserve your spot.

August Workshops include:

Canoe Creek Produce
Sunday, August 4, 2013 | 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.  | Decorah, Iowa  | $35; $50 after 7-31-13
Discuss farm diversification, beginning farmer challenges and resources, and farmstay start-ups with a panel of experienced farmers plus representatives of FoodCorps and MOSES.

Dancing Winds Farms
Thursday, August 8, 2013  | 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.  |  Kenyon, Minnesota | $35; $50 after 7-31-13
A panel of farmers discusses diversification through farmstays, farming as a single woman, starting farms mid-life, beginning farmer land access & financing, cheesemaking, raising goats, and more!

Scotch Hill Farm
Sunday, August 18, 2013  | 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.  |  Brodhead, Wisconsin | $35; $50 after 8-9-13
Learn from women who run successful CSA operations through the Fair Share Coalition. Topics include starting