Taking care of our own is one of the most important tenets of military culture. Regardless of branch of service, the armed forces is a proud band of brothers and sisters where you can always count on someone ‘watching your six.’
After transitioning back into the civilian world, many veterans immediately notice an absence of camaraderie and sense of community that typifies the military lifestyle. The civilian workforce just doesn’t value these ideals in the same way.
Army veterans Greggory DeBoer and Chad Tackett recently proved this mentality is alive and well among the Farmer Veteran Coalition membership.
Last month, Tackett, who owns and operates Tackett Family Farm and Ranch in Lincolnton, Georgia, was looking to expand his cattle operation by adding a bull to service his herd. After hearing about a potentially great deal by a seller in Alabama, Tackett began frantically planning how he would get out to Alabama and transport the bull back to Georgia without a functioning trailer, which was in need of repair.
Having connected with a number of members through the FVC Facebook page, Tackett, an Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom veteran, immediately thought about DeBoer, who owns and operates Veteran Farms in Baileyton, Alabama. Though the two had only casually spoken to each other on Facebook and had never met face to face, Tackett asked DeBoer if he could make the 90-mile trip to the seller in Berry, Alabama, and hold onto the bull until he could make arrangements to pick it up.
Without thinking twice, DeBoer, who was already planning on passing through Georgia on his way to North Carolina that weekend, not only agreed to pick up the bull, but also to deliver it to Tackett’s farm more than 300 miles away.
“I was ecstatic,” said Tackett about his reaction when DeBoer told him he’d deliver the bull to his farm. “I was trying to jump through hoops to figure out how I was going to get to Alabama to get this bull. I’m extremely appreciative. He helped me out more than I would have asked him to.”
After being contacted by Tackett at 7 p.m. on a Saturday night, DeBoer was out the door by 8:30 a.m. the next morning to pick up the bull. Upon arriving at the seller’s farm, things didn’t exactly go according to plan.
“I was hoping to show up, load the bull and come back home, but it turned into an all-day adventure,” said DeBoer, an Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran. “The first bull I went to get jumped the fence and away he went.”
Fortunately, the seller had a second bull to offer for half the price of the first bull. DeBoer sized up the bull and Tackett gave him the green light to buy it. Then things got interesting again.
“We had to actually rope the bull and drag it by the horns through about a four-acre pasture,” DeBoer said. “This was no easy task and took about three hours of fighting it. We finally got him on the trailer and on the way we went back to the farm.”
DeBoer cared for the bull over the next three days, feeding him from a bucket and earning his trust, all while updating Tackett with daily photos. When it came time for DeBoer to deliver the bull to Tackett’s farm, he enlisted the support of his friend, Matt Roemer, who has been a cattleman for 38 years.
“Matt came over to the farm and I was schooled on how to load the bull,” he said. “I learned a ton by watching him work the bull. Had it not been for Matt, I may still be trying to load that bull up.”
Delivering the bull without incident, DeBoer was greeted by an appreciative Tackett, who named the new bull “Tecumseh.”
This wasn’t DeBoer’s first time looking out for fellow farmer veterans. Last month, he traveled to Washington, D.C., to advocate for farmer veterans as part of a series of ‘fly-ins’ sponsored by the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition to meet with senators and representatives to build support for sustainable agriculture programs.
Both DeBoer and Tackett agree that farmer veterans share a special bond through serving in two of America’s most noble professions: military and farming.
“I think that farmers as a whole would go the extra mile to help each other out,” said DeBoer, who recently planted 9,000 onions by hand on his farm with his wife and son. “I think you add veteran to this, and it just intensifies that bond and the willingness to go the extra mile to help a fellow farmer, and, even more so, another veteran.”
Now that Tecumseh is on the farm, Tackett is looking forward to many successful calving seasons that will keep him stocked with calves for years to come. He’s also looking forward to having DeBoer back out to his ranch to “cook some steak over a fire with a cold beer.”
To honor farmer veterans and their service to our country, Successful Farming magazine and Grasshopper mowers have teamed up for a new contest called From Fighter to Farmer. The contest invites farmer veterans—or their friends and family—to share their story for a chance to be one of three farmer veterans who will receive a $5,000 cash prize plus a three-day, all-inclusive trip for two people to Nashville, Tennessee.
These three farmer veterans will also be highlighted in a feature article in Successful Farming magazine next November and on Agriculture.com. Starting in October, you’ll be able to vote online for one of the veterans. The farmer veteran with the most votes will receive $10,000 to spend at Grasshopper mowers, in addition to the $5,000 cash prize and trip to Nashville.
• Your name, phone number and email address – if nominating a farmer veteran
• Farmer veteran name, phone number, email address, and mailing address.
• Military branch, length of active-duty service, and whether the farmer veteran became disabled while on active military service.
• In 500 words or less, describe the farmer veteran’s military experience, farming operation, and involvement in the community.
Or mail your entry, with the info above, to:
Successful Farming Fighter to Farmer
1716 Locust Street/LS257
Des Moines, Iowa 50309-3023
NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. Subject to Official Rules at http://www.Agriculture.com/fightertofarmerrules. Begins at 12:01 a.m. CT on 2/1/16 and ends at 11:59 p.m. CT on 4/30/16. Open to legal residents of the 48 contiguous United States and the District of Columbia, 13 years or older. Void in Alaska, Hawaii, and where prohibited. Sponsor: Meredith Corporation.
With Spring upon us and planting season right around the corner, Farmer Veteran Coalition is pleased to announce a new member benefit courtesy of Dadant & Sons, Inc., the largest manufacturer of beekeeping supplies in the United States.
The new benefit provides Farmer Veteran Coalition members with a 10% discount on in-store purchases but does not include medicines, feed or bulk containers.
To use the benefit at one of Dadant’s 11 nationwide locations, inform the representative that you are an FVC member interested in using the 10% discount. The representative will then need to verify your membership with FVC, which may include making a phone call to their main office, so be sure to bring your state-issued identification card and military or Veterans Affairs identification card, if possible.
Based in Hamilton, Illinois, Dadant & Sons, Inc., has been operating in the United States since 1863, but the Dadant family has been interested in beekeeping for more than 180 years dating back to founder Charles Dadant’s childhood in Vaux-Soux-Aubigny, France. As a beekeeping industry leader, Dadant & Sons, Inc., has been publishing the American Bee Journal—originally established in 1861 by Samuel Wagner—since 1912, which holds the distinction of being the oldest English-language beekeeping publication in the world.
Dadant & Sons, Inc., has branches in the following locations:
•Waverly, New York
•Sioux City, Iowa
•High Springs, Florida
For more information about Dadant & Sons, Inc., please visit their website at www.dadant.com.
Photo published courtesy of Dan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.
With the goal of equipping women veterans with business and farming tools, Farmer Veteran Coalition hosted its third Empowering Women Veterans: Business, Agriculture and Well-Being Conference March 4-5, 2016, for more than 80 people at the prestigious Stone Barns Center in Pocantico Hills, New York.
The free conference was open to all active duty and veteran women, as well as women who farm with veterans. It featured daily on-site workshops in sheep production, year-round vegetable production, and farm-to-restaurant sales as well as educational presentations given by women veterans and other experts.
“As a woman veteran and a farmer, attending this conference has made my life better,” said Althea Raiford, Navy veteran and co-owner of Gilliard Farms, who has attended all three conferences. “The resources provided and the connections made cannot be duplicated anywhere else.
The keynote address was given by Dr. Anu Rangarajan, horticulture faculty member at Cornell University, who serves as the Statewide Fresh Market Vegetable Specialist and directs Cornell University’s Small Farm Program.
Additional speakers included Col. Cindy Chastain, Farmer Veteran Outreach Coordinator for the National AgrAbility Project, who spoke about her experiences in Afghanistan with an Agricultural Development Team and Dr. Tasha Hargrove, an Air Force veteran and assistant to the dean at Tuskegee University, who spoke about careers in agriculture for women.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, organic food sales in the United States have shown double-digit growth during most years since 1990, with sales approaching $37 billion last year alone. To meet this growing demand, Farmer Veteran Coalition created the Veteran Organic Training Program.
Established in September 2015, the Veteran Organic Training Program is designed to cover FVC member’s costs to organically certify their farms, from the new application fee through certification.
Organic certification verifies that a farm or handling facility complies with USDA organic regulations and allows producers to sell, label, and represent their products as organic. The USDA organic regulations recognize four categories of organic products: crops, livestock, processed products, and wild crops.
While the costs and fees associated with organic certification vary depending on the size and scope of the operation, FVC is fortunate to have two organic certifying agencies—California Certified Organic Farmers and Oregon Tilth—on board that will waive new application and base certification fees respectively, removing a crucial barrier to initiate the organic certification process.
Because the new application/base certification fees are only a portion of the fees associated with organic certification, United Natural Foods, Inc., has awarded FVC with a $6,000 grant to cover the remaining costs of organic certification. These funds, which will be administered on a first come, first serve basis, can be used for inspection fees and other costs associated with the inspection process.
To utilize this program, an FVC member would first select which certifying agency they prefer to work with. California Certified Organic Farmers and Oregon Tilth both waive the initial fees, however, FVC members must have enough money on-hand to cover the remaining certification fees. Upon completion of the certification process, members would then submit documentation to FVC for reimbursement.
Since the Veteran Organic Training Program’s inception, FVC has assisted five members with organic certification, all of which are still navigating the process.
“The organic certification process can be lengthy,” said Aaron Magill, manager of the Veteran Organic Training Program. “Often auditors need to see plants in the ground, farming practices in action, livestock birthing, et cetera, before an organic certification can be given. Everything from record keeping to farming practices will be scrutinized, but FVC will advise and assist every step of the way.”
For members who aren’t sure if organic certification makes sense for their operation, or have questions about the process, FVC and CCOF are hosting a series of webinars in the coming months covering topics such as where to start to get certified organic, organic recordkeeping, and labeling organic produce. The first webinar, ‘Go Organic,’ will be held April 21, and will detail the steps necessary to begin organic farming or transition existing operations toward organic certification.
Farmer Veteran Coalition member Kelly Carlisle (center) of Acta Non Verba: Youth Urban Farm Project shares her story of transitioning from military to agriculture while FVC members James Brady (left) of Con10u2farm, L3C, and Vonita Murray (right) of Mariposa Valley Farm listen. As part of the 29th California Small Farm Conference held March 5-8 in Sacramento, California, FVC hosted a workshop titled ‘Veterans in Agriculture: A Solution to the Decreasing Farmer Population.’ The workshop, which was held in a roundtable discussion format, informed attendees of the challenges facing veterans embarking on careers in agriculture, and the unique skill sets that make veterans the perfect demographic for replacing the decreasing farmer population.
Throughout our nation’s history, service men and women have always stood at the ready to answer the call of duty. From the Revolutionary War to the Global War on Terrorism, America has called upon its brave men and women to rise to challenges, both at home and abroad.
Now, as two out of every three farmers who reach retirement age are not being replaced, veterans are once again answering the call. To honor this call to service, the Homegrown By Heroes label was established to differentiate farmer veteran products, provide point-of-sale visibility, and afford consumers the opportunity to support farmer veterans.
Established in 2013 by the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, Homegrown By Heroes is available to farmers, ranchers, fishermen, and value-added producers, who own 50% or more of a business or operation, and are veterans of the armed forces with a characterization of service of Honorable or General (Under Honorable Conditions). With the announcement, the Homegrown By Heroes label now has partnerships with 12 states: Kentucky, Ohio, Arkansas, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, South Carolina, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Maine, and Indiana.
Since Farmer Veteran Coalition assumed stewardship of the label on Veterans Day 2013, Homegrown By Heroes has blossomed into a nationally recognized program by the United States Department of Agriculture, and includes more than 400 members in 46 states.
“The Homegrown By Heroes label empowers veterans to stand out in a competitive marketplace,” said Aaron Magill, Army veteran and manager of Homegrown By Heroes. “It gives your product a personal, appreciable touch that links you to your community.”
Despite Homegrown by Heroes’ rapid growth since 2013, there is still a long way to go before it achieves the same kind of brand recognition as established labels like ‘USDA Organic.’ However, as more members learn about the benefits of product labeling, particularly differentiating themselves as veterans, FVC hopes the label will become a household name.
“It’s not about calling ourselves heroes,” said Magill. “It’s about marketing to those who recognize your military service as being something of great value. It’s a way for civilians to support veterans in a tangible way.”
So far, Homegrown By Heroes has partnerships with 12 states—Kentucky, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Arkansas, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, South Carolina, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Maine—but hopes to expand to all 50. In many cases, partner states seamlessly merge their department of agriculture marketing campaigns with the Homegrown By Heroes label.
“Imagine having an Indiana Grown label and Homegrown By Heroes label on your product,” said Magill. “That’s instant credibility and legitimacy for our farmer veterans.”
Farmer Veteran Coalition, in conjunction with the Indiana State Department of Agriculture’s Indiana Grown, are pleased to announce a new Homegrown By Heroes partnership with the state of Indiana.
The partnership was announced Monday at the Indiana War Memorial with Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, Indiana Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann, and Indiana State Department of Agriculture Director Ted McKinney in attendance.
“Helping our Hoosier veterans, who have selflessly served our state and nation, is a pillar of my administration,” said Governor Pence. “As our economy continues to grow, the Homegrown by Heroes program will help ensure that our Hoosier heroes have every opportunity to succeed when they return home from serving our state and nation. After putting their lives on the line for our freedom, helping them achieve success in their civilian affairs is the least we can do.”
With the announcement, the Homegrown By Heroes label now has partnerships with 12 states: Kentucky, Ohio, Arkansas, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, South Carolina, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Maine, and Indiana.
The Indiana Grown Homegrown By Heroes program gives local producers who have served in the military the opportunity to use an exclusively-designed logo on their business signage and/or product labels. This will help consumers who wish to show their support easily identify products made by Hoosier veterans.
To be eligible for the Indiana Grown Homegrown By Heroes program, the producer must meet all Indiana Grown membership criteria, as well as the following:
• Have veteran, active duty, National Guard or Reserve member of the U.S. Armed Forces status, without regard to age or era of duty;
• Provide a copy of their Department of Defense Form 214 or equivalent;
• Have characterization of service of Honorable or General (under Honorable conditions);
• Provide a letter of support from their commanding officer or designated representative attesting to their service under honorable conditions if they are an active duty member;
• Maintain 50 percent or greater veteran ownership of their business or operation and 50 percent or greater veteran management control.
Indiana FVC members interested in becoming Indian Grown/HBH certified must already be HBH certified with Farmer Veteran Coalition. For more information on Indiana Grown and the Indiana Grown Homegrown By Heroes program, or to apply for membership, visit IndianaGrown.org.
Interested in becoming USDA Organic Certified? California Certified Organic Farmers can help.
As an exclusive benefit for Farmer Veteran Coalition members, CCOF will waive the $325 new application fee that is collected upon submitting an organic certification application.
Organic certification verifies that your farm or handling facility complies with the USDA organic regulations and allows you to sell, label, and represent your products as organic. The USDA organic regulations recognize four categories of organic products: crops, livestock, processed products, and wild crops.
While CCOF will waive the new application fee, there are still additional ongoing certification costs associated with becoming USDA organic certified, to include an annual fee and the cost of an annual inspection. However, small farms and processors are routinely certified for $450 to $1,500, according to the CCOF website.
To assist our members with these additional costs, United Natural Foods, Inc., has awarded FVC with a $6,000 grant. These funds will be administered on a first come, first serve basis to cover out-of-pocket expenses to become organic certified.
Becoming USDA organic certified may not make sense for all of our farmer veterans, however, benefits include: receiving premium prices for your products; access to local, regional and international markets; protecting natural resources, supporting local economies, and access to additional funding and technical assistance programs.
Though CCOF is a California-based certifying agent, they can certify FVC members nationwide.
To further enhance its mission of mobilizing veterans to feed America, Farmer Veteran Coalition is pleased to announce a partnership with Kiva as a trustee in their new pilot program, Kiva Zip.
Kiva, a nonprofit crowdfunding organization that connects lenders with borrowers, allows individuals to lend as little as $25 in the form of microloans. The Kiva Zip pilot program was launched to expand financial opportunities and access for borrowers who otherwise lack them, provide 100% interest-free loans, and enhance the connectedness between lenders and borrowers.
As a Kiva Zip Trustee, FVC has the ability to endorse our members, giving them instant credibility and increasing the likelihood of reaching their fundraising goals. And, thanks to our generous sponsors, each loan made to an FVC member is eligible to be matched up to $100.
“Kiva Zip is a great fit for Farmer Veteran Coalition because they help us provide one hundred percent interest-free loans to our farmer veterans,” said Yani Bunch, Army veteran and FVC special projects coordinator. “In the short period of time we have been working with Kiva Zip, our farmer-veterans have benefited immensely.”
Since joining Kiva Zip in September 2015, FVC has endorsed a total of seven loans valued at $41,800 with a 100% repayment rate. In 2016, FVC hopes to establish Kiva Zip as an integral tool to assist FVC members who need to raise immediate capital for projects with immediate return on investment.
Farmer Veteran Coalition member Joel Heinzeroth, owner/operator of Heinzeroth Cattle Company, utilized Kiva Zip in 2015 to raise $5,000 to purchase a 26-ton overhead feed bin, which is large enough to hold the entire amount of feed needed for his cattle during the winter months. Prior to his Kiva Zip loan, Heinzeroth would drive 26 miles roundtrip to pay the current market price for feed as they needed it. Now, Heinzeroth buys all his feed in bulk, saving time, money and gas.
“As you can see, an overhead feed bin provides excellent return on investment for our operation, and an overhead feed bin will provide decades of service to our family,” said Heinzeroth, field artillery officer at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.
While FVC endorses our members in the Kiva Zip program, we assume no financial liability for loans and repayment is solely the responsibility of the borrower.
If you’re interested in learning more about Kiva Zip and FVC’s selection process, please contact Yani Bunch at email@example.com, or call (530) 756-1395.