USDA Connects Veterans to Resources for Beginning Farmers

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USDA Connects Veterans to Resources for Beginning Farmers

By Posted by Mariela Castaneda, Office of Partnerships and Public Engagement in Equity Initiatives

United States veterans have endured extreme hardships to protect our country and its values, often by putting their lives on the line. But when their service is complete, many find reentering civilian life to be challenging.

Housed within USDA’s Office of Partnership and Public Engagement, the Military Veteran Agricultural Liaison (MVAL) helps veterans across the country fill roles that keep America’s food supply safe. The MVAL serves as a conduit between USDA services and veterans themselves, connecting them to employment, education and entrepreneurship on or beyond the farm. The MVAL often partners with USDA grantees to enhance veterans’ access to training in farming and ranching, opening opportunities for fulfilling careers in agriculture.

For example, the Adelante Center for Entrepreneurship in Illinois is a 2501 grant recipient, helping connect veterans, Latinos, and other underserved audiences to urban agriculture. The Center is using the 2501 grant for training in urban farm systems setup and operations. Executive Director Ken Barber, a veteran himself, looks forward to building hydroponics programming and outreach to program participants and their communities.

“The 2501 grant has had a dramatic impact on Adelante Center operations and engagement with Chicago area veterans,” said Barber. “It has allowed us to expand both the programs we offer and our outreach efforts to give veterans the opportunity to try farming and ranching on a local, urban scale.”
Similarly, Ho’ola Farms in Hilo, Hawaii has worked with the MVAL to serve veterans since 2015. As a recipient of multiple USDA grants, Ho’ola Farms provides training and hands-on experience in agriculture for veterans and first responders, their families and caregivers, and their communities.

“The MVAL helped us connect with USDA resources like the Enhancing Agricultural Opportunities for Military Veterans (AgVets) and Beginning Farmer and Rancher Programs,” said Executive Director Emily Emmons, a veteran’s wife. “The funding we’ve received has helped us provide training, resources and support to more than 100 veterans over the past eight years. Many have gone on to start their own farms.”

USDA wants to ensure that veterans looking to return to or start a career on a farm have the tools and opportunities they need to succeed, and the MVAL plays a critical role in supporting that goal.

“Veterans don’t know what they don’t know,” said MVAL Monshi (Ram) Ramdass. “We want to ensure that veterans are aware of all USDA’s programs and opportunities.”