Military veterans finding new missions in farming

farm agriculture

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Veterans are finding new missions as they move from battlefields to agricultural fields, and just like they needed training to become good soldiers, they need preparation to become successful farmers.

That’s why Virginia State University’s (VSU) Small Farm Outreach Program (SFOP) and the Farmer Veteran Coalition (FVC) are teaming up to host the 2020 Veteran Conference: Boots to Roots March 17-18. The two-day conference is designed to teach veterans who are new or beginning farmers about resources and grant opportunities available through the USDA and the Commonwealth of Virginia. Sessions run from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on March 17 and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on March 18. Participants will also learn how to create effective business plans and develop successful farm production practices.

“This conference is chalked full of information that military veterans need to help them get their farm operations started and increase their productivity, profitability and sustainability,” said Tony Edwards, an SFOP agricultural management agent who specializes in helping military veterans and beginning farmers. “Like in the military, veterans who farm need basic training to help combat the challenges they will face in farming.”

Boots to Roots will be held at VSU’s Gateway Event Center at 2804 Martin Luther King Dr., Colonial Heights, VA 23834. Registration is $25 per person and includes meals, refreshments and a bus tour of Slade Farms, owned by Cliff Slade, a military veteran, experienced farmer and retired Virginia Cooperative Extension agent. Hotel rooms are available at Hampton Inn in Colonial Heights for a discounted rate ($96/night) for registered attendees at the conference.

The conference is open to veterans as well as military personnel who may be considering farming after retirement. To register, visit www.ext.vsu.edu/calendar, click on the event and then click on the registration link.

Keynote speakers for the conference, include Michael O’Gorman, FVC executive director and Dr. Jewel H. Bronaugh, commissioner of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Farming is a good career choice for veterans because it allows them to support their communities with the same passion they supported their country, Edwards added. “There’s a need for veterans who farm to come together to collaborate, commiserate, exchange ideas and learn from what others are doing in farming and agriculture.”

If you are a person with a disability and desire any assistive devices, services or other accommodations to participate in this activity, please contact the Small Farm Outreach Program office at smallfarm@vsu.edu or call (804) 524-3292 / TDD (800) 828-1120 during business hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. to discuss accommodations five days prior to the event.


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