Homegrown by Heroes helps veterans promote farm products

newspaperFarmers who are military veterans are getting help marketing agricultural products from a new branding program of the Farmer Veteran Coalition called Homegrown By Heroes.

Paul Meyer, one of a half-dozen Virginia farmers participating in the program, said he believes that “if people see the label and know they’re supporting veteran farmers, they will be inclined to buy that product.” Meyer owns and operates the Virginia Vegetable Company in Powhatan County, where he grows everything from basil to heirloom tomatoes.

He offers community-supported agriculture memberships and sells produce at local farmers’ markets and to restaurants. He recently began preserving some of his produce and plans to market those products using HBH labels.

David and Denise Hudson, also HBH farmers, sell meat products from their Hudson Heritage Farm in Halifax County and promote the fact that they are veterans every chance they get. They said participating in the HBH program gives them a label to support that.

“Consumers want to understand where their food comes from, and they like to support certain things—like veterans—so this is one way they can do both,” David Hudson said.

HBH provides labels for participating farmers to highlight the fact that labeled products have been grown or produced by a past or present member of the U.S. armed forces.
There are currently 250 farmer participants in 43 states.

The Farmer Veteran Coalition was formed in 2007 to promote veterans in every sector of the farming industry. The Kentucky Department of Agriculture launched the HBH campaign in 2013. On Veterans Day of that year, the FVC was licensed to promote HBH in all 50 states. The Farm Credit Council gave the coalition $250,000 to fund HBH signs and product labels.

Hudson said there is a natural affinity between farming and military service.

“Who puts in long hours and hard work? Veterans and farmers. Veterans don’t make a lot of money; neither do farmers. And veterans and farmers both support people.”

Meyer went from self-proclaimed “Virginia Beach surfer boy” to a member of the U.S. Coast Guard before he began his farming operation two years ago.

The Hudsons both served in the Air Force and the Army Guard. They established their farm in 2009 and have Boer, Myotonic and Spanish goats; Large Black and Tamworth hogs; Highland cattle; Jersey milk cows; and Dorset horned sheep. They also teach classes on making butter, cheese and pasta; breaking down a side of beef; and canning foods, among other traditional food practices.

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