Introduction – Farm Grants For Veterans
ShrinkThatFootprint has a healthy readership of would-be farmers including under-represented groups for which we’ve covered stories in the past. Today we’ll talk about farm grants for veterans – and the reason is quite good – did you know that our veterans are more likely to get into agriculture than non-veterans? And it’s not just about numbers – these individuals are contributing to the journey toward sustainable farming, one field at a time.
From small patches of organic produce to sprawling fields of crops, veterans are increasingly turning to farming after their service, bringing discipline, resilience, and a spirit of service to their communities.
Equipped with farm grants and various support programs, they are finding ways to cultivate sustainability in their local areas.
In this article, we’ll explore how farm grants for veterans have evolved over time, how these resources foster sustainable farming practices, and how veterans can tap into these opportunities to contribute to a more sustainable future.
If you’re a veteran interested in farming, or if you just want to learn more about this important shift in agriculture, read on!
Veterans-Turned-Farmers – What Is The Rationale?
Is farming an attractive choice for veterans after their service? The numbers certainly bear that out.
Despite being 6% of the general population, veterans make up 11% of the general population, meaning a veteran has a 60% greater likelihood of becoming a farmer compared to a non-veteran.
Certainly there are positives including the potential for self-employment, a life connected to the land, and the opportunity to continue serving their community.
Moreover, it’s possible that the discipline accrued in the military translates well to the farm business. Here are 4 good reasons:
- Lifestyle and Values: The discipline, work ethic, and commitment to service that are often a part of military training can also translate well into a farming lifestyle. Agriculture requires resilience, problem-solving, and dedication – characteristics many veterans already possess.
- Connection to the Land: Farming allows veterans to maintain a connection to the land and participate in a cycle of growth and renewal. This can be both satisfying and therapeutic, helping to smooth the transition from military to civilian life.
- Serving the Community: Many veterans are drawn to farming as a way to continue serving their communities. By providing local food, they can contribute to their community’s health and economic well-being.
- Self-Employment and Independence: Farming offers the potential for self-employment and the independence that comes with running one’s own business. This can be appealing for many veterans who prefer to work independently or who may face barriers to traditional employment after their service.
As for the numbers, according to a 2017 survey by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, veterans made up about 11% of U.S. farmers.
According to 2017 data from the USDA, the United States boasted a significant number of military veterans-turned-farmers.
A whole 17% of all farms had a producer who had served or was currently serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.
These farmer veterans, on average, tend to be older than their non-military counterparts. Additionally, their farms are often smaller in both acreage and sales.
But what they lack in size, they make up for in determination and service to their communities.
Each contributes to the health and diversity of our nation’s agricultural landscape in their own unique way.
Note On USDA Funding
A number of readers are dismayed that the federal budget for the USDA got cut and is on the chopping block further after 2020.
The truth is that USDA funding is very healthy and grants for beginner farmers are still very much active. Instead of fearing budget cuts, interested applicants should just go ahead and find out about the process and apply for the grants!
USDA’s Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program
The first such initiative is the “Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program” by the USDA.
This program specifically targets beginning farmers and ranchers, including veterans. It offers financial aid, education, training, and mentorship, creating a solid foundation for a successful transition into the agricultural world.
Tom, a veteran, benefited greatly from this program. He used his grant to establish EcoFarm, a small organic farm in the heartland.
By focusing on sustainable practices like organic cultivation and composting, Tom now contributes to reducing carbon emissions and ensuring a steady supply of fresh produce for his local community.
Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)
If you’re a veteran considering a venture into farming, the USDA’s “Environmental Quality Incentives Program” (EQIP) is an essential resource.
EQIP is designed to provide both financial and technical assistance to farmers who commit to implementing environmentally friendly practices.
- Financial Assistance: EQIP provides financial aid to offset the costs of implementing new conservation practices or managing existing ones. This can cover a wide variety of eco-friendly adjustments, from implementing water-saving irrigation systems to developing wildlife habitats.
- Technical Assistance: Beyond financial support, EQIP also offers technical assistance. This includes help with planning, designing, and implementing the proposed conservation practices. USDA experts or approved partners can guide you through the process, ensuring you get the maximum benefit from your efforts.
- Applying for EQIP: To apply for EQIP, you can contact your local USDA service center or visit the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) website. Here, you’ll find detailed information about the program and how to apply. You’ll need to provide information about your farm or ranch, your conservation goals, and your proposed practices.
Holly, a veteran-turned-farmer, is a great example of how EQIP can be beneficial.
Using the grant she received from EQIP, she was able to install a drip irrigation system on her Californian almond farm.
This system not only reduced water consumption dramatically but also illustrated how adopting environmentally-friendly farming practices can be cost-effective and beneficial for the long-term sustainability of your farming operation.
How Can Veterans Apply?
Veterans considering a transition into farming can apply for these programs via the USDA’s website or at local agricultural extension offices.
Application processes usually require detailed information about the proposed farming operation and the sustainable practices planned for implementation.
Key Resources for Veterans
Veterans entering the farming field have a wealth of resources available to help them in their journey.
Farming Equipment: Brands like John Deere offer “Sustainable & Organic Farming Equipment.” These tools are designed to increase efficiency and reduce the environmental impact of farming. This can range from machinery that supports organic farming to precision agriculture equipment, which can minimize waste and optimize resources.
Research and Practices: The Rodale Institute is a powerhouse in organic farming research and provides valuable practices and techniques for sustainable farming. They offer training programs, research findings, and practical guides that can help farmers make informed decisions about their farming methods.
Non-profit Organizations: Veterans to Farmers is a non-profit organization dedicated to assisting veterans in their transition into farming. They offer training programs, mentorship, and support to help veterans adapt to their new roles.
Governmental Resources: The USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) offers extensive resources, including research, education, and extension programs that can provide veterans with valuable information and assistance in their farming endeavors.
Local Agricultural Extension Offices: Your local extension office can provide tailored advice, training, and support based on the specific conditions and challenges of your area. They can help you understand local soil conditions, crop choices, pest management, and more.
Sustainable Farming: A Commitment to Our Future
The shift towards sustainable farming isn’t just a passing trend – it’s a dedication to our future. For veterans, these farm grants and programs are more than just financial aids.
They symbolize a pledge to protect our planet and contribute to a community invested in health and sustainability.
Need More Info?
Veterans interested in farming grants and sustainable practices can check out the USDA – National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and Veterans to Farmers. These platforms, along with local organizations, provide guidance, advice, training, and support to help veterans embark on their farming journey.