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Virginia introduces new marketing tool for veterans who farm

Certified farmers can now use a modified Virginia Grown logo in marketing their farm products as both locally grown and produced by U.S. military veterans.

marketing seoFor more than 15 years the Virginia Grown label has helped promote locally-grown produce and farm products. Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced the new joint logo July 26 as part of his administration’s efforts to support military veterans and Virginia agriculture.

The Virginia Grown symbol has been added to the Homegrown by Heroes logo, which is the official farmer veteran brand image developed in 2013 by the national Farmer Veteran Coalition. A sample image is available at vdacs.virginia.gov/vagrown/homegrownbyheroes.shtml.

“There is a groundswell of support for veterans, and there is a dire need for new farmers,” said John Fant, chairman of the newly formed Virginia chapter of the FVC. “We worked with the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to develop this logo to demonstrate that a product is grown by veterans here in Virginia.”

Fant, who is also a cattleman and retired U.S. Army colonel, said the joint logo is just one effort to support current veteran farmers and encourage more military veterans to begin farming.

“From a food security perspective, the average age of a Virginia farmer is 58½ years. So as current farmers transition into retirement, we need to replace them,” he explained. “We think many veterans have the specific skill set to do that, and this marketing tool can help them. Anyone who’s ever sold something knows you can have a great product, but if you can’t sell, you won’t succeed.”

There already are many veteran farmers in Virginia. Fant said if they’re interested in using the new logo, they need to become certified as former military personnel through the FVC. Then they can acquire the marketing tools from the Virginia Grown program.

Paul “Farmer Paul” Meyer is a Virginia veteran and urban farmer who plans to adopt the new joint logo for his products. Meyer raises cut flowers and produce in Petersburg and said he’ll replace the Homegrown by Heroes logo on his packaging with the new image.

“I’m always pushing local, but I’ve never had a customer say thanks for being a veteran,” Meyer said. “But I’m sure it doesn’t hurt. It’s still important to me, and I’ll be using it on the packaging for my salad mix and all my invoices.”

The first Virginia FVC training program for interested veteran farmers is scheduled for Oct. 27 and 28 in Halifax County at Hudson Heritage Farms. Information and registration details are available by contacting Rebekah Slabach of Virginia Cooperative Extension, rslabach@vt.edu, or 434-476-2147.

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