2011 USDA Funded Farmer-Veteran Retreats Set in Four States

The Farmer-Veteran Coalition has announced four upcoming educational farming retreats planned this spring and summer through funding received primarily from the Risk Management Agency of the US Department of Agriculture. The retreats will take place in Southern California, Arkansas, Iowa and Pennsylvania. Each one will have a unique curriculum and theme and will offer valuable lessons to veterans starting out in all aspects of the agricultural industry.
Each retreat will entail two packed days of visits to farms, food companies and talks by industry leaders with the intention of giving military veterans interested in food and farming tools to understand and reduce some of the risks to launching successful careers. The events, which also include funding from FVC, and corporate sponsors, are free for all veterans and active-duty military personnel interested in or currently farming.  However, due to limited spacing preference will be given to those that have demonstrated the most serious interest in pursuing food and farming careers and to post 9-11 veterans nearer the beginning of their careers.

The Los Angeles retreat will focus on urban farming, school gardens and the work being done to bring healthy food into the city’s food deserts.  The group will initially gather on the evening of Thursday, March 24.   The educational curriculum the next two days will include a tour of the city’s wholesale produce market, a culinary academy, urban farming and a chance to get hands in the dirt and help Teaching Garden, a Southern California based project that establishes edible gardens at many of the nation’s poorest schools.

“Our goal is to give veterans a new mission,” said FVC Director Michael O’Gorman, “and putting in these gardens for the children is a great way to learn and serve at the same time.”

The Arkansas retreat will be based around Fayetteville on May 20-22.   This retreat and the ones in Iowa and Pennsylvania will be co-sponsored by NCAT (National Center for Appropriate Technology).   This retreat will focus on sustainable poultry and small ruminant production (goats and sheep) but will include tours to area fruit and vegetable farms as well. The tours will be led by NCAT’s poultry expert and chicken farmer, Terell Spencer, who is also a combat veteran of the Iraq war.

The majority of funding for the Iowa retreat is coming from Blue River Hybrids, the country’s leading supplier of organic and non-GMO seed corn, soybeans and forages.  The July 15-16 retreat, dubbed “Coming Home to Farm”, will be centered between Des Moines and Ames and will focus on organic and sustainable farming practices.  Besides tours of organic and sustainable grain, vegetable, pork and wine production, classes will be given on how to become organically certified and how to turn production techniques into marketing advantage.

The fourth retreat will be held near Shavertown, Pennsylvania on August 20-21.  Being located in the Southeast corner of the state, near large metropolitan areas, this retreat will focus on techniques to produce high yields and profitable farms off of limited acreage.   NCAT staff will give a tour of their ‘SPIN’ project – “small plot intensive agriculture” – and tours of greenhouse, hydroponic and aquaponics production.

FVC hopes to add additional retreats later in the year and is working with groups in California, Washington State, Indiana and elsewhere to host one-day educational farm tours for veterans throughout the year.  Veterans interested in attending any of these events or finding out about other services of the Farmer-Veteran Coalition are urged to contact us at info@farmvetco.org, check out our website, www.farmvetco.org and follow us on Face Book.  We urge you to get involved!

Sabir Brara
Farmer-Veteran Coalition
818-635-0780, 530-756-1395

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