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Veterans Agricultural Training and Education Program

Investigators
Elliott, Robert
Institutions
The Veteran's Farm of North Carolina, Inc.
Start date
2019
End date
2022
Objective
The primary goal of VATEP is to integrate the large population of interested veterans in the area into agriculture. VATEP will train active military, veterans, and military spouses with agricultural experience or none at all and provide them with an intensive education and training opportunity. Each participant shall exit the program with a basic understanding of agriculture, and many facets thereof from the soil and water to the end user of an agricultural product. VATEP instruction includes purchasing and building a farm, running an agricultural business successfully, growing products of various production models, marketing through various means of sales (i.e. wholesale, retail, value-added, etc.), mentoring and networking. Each participant will understand the basic concepts of producing a product processing, packaging, and selling safely. VATEP teaches risk management within farm production models and instructs how to develop a successful business, finding and utilizing resources locally and nationally, compliance with food safety requirements, and certifications.Each six-month cohort will accept a maximum of 20 participants with limited or no agricultural knowledge and provide them the education and resources to successfully begin a farm operation and maintain success through the growth of their enterprise. The funding will allow VATEP to operate for three years and serve approximately 60 participants a year for a total of 180 at program completion.The overall program is designed to establish mental, physical, financial, and personal sustainability and provide the tools and education to become a farmer with mentors in existing networks. VATEP will provide a basic education in agricultural endeavors for small to medium scale farming operations. VATEP will utilize the grant funding to start the first program, prove the concept, gain valuable feedback from participants and utilize the evaluations as a means to adjust programming and build the strongest program possible for training our veterans. VATEP is designed to be funded in the future by G.I. Bill, Vocational Rehabilitation, and State Workforce Development funding that will allow VATEP to be expanded into other states.Objective 1: Equip participants with a greater understanding of entrepreneurship opportunities in agriculture and assist them in gaining the basic knowledge needed to become a farmer/rancher through on-farm, hands-on production models. Participants will:Understand of current needs in agriculture in NC and the US.Become exposed to many agricultural products that they may wish to begin producing.Identify products they wish to produce at an appropriate scale of productionAcquire fundamental business management and accounting skills for their choices.Learn risk management techniques for farming operationsDiscover local, state, and federal resources from agencies, Universities, and NGO'sDevelop a basic understanding of how to market their product.Learn farm safety procedures and farmer health concepts including suicide prevention.Develop financial stability, literacy and management needed to begin farming.Develop a basic understanding of agricultural production concepts and procedures including soils, crops, livestock, forestry, and fisheries.Develop a basic understanding of farm and household financial management skillsDevelop abasic understanding of the range of agricultural marketsDevelopment of a farm business plan based on their preferred area of focusObjective 2: Match veterans with resources and build participant's means to farm successfully. Participants shall:Gain advice on how to transition from active duty to farming considering their health and entitlements by counselors linking them to VA and other veteran organization's benefits and healthcare that participants may be unaware of.Gain assistance in becoming financially stable and sustainable to purchase a farm through credit counselling and preparing to acquire funding from lenders.Become acquainted with agricultural organizations and agencies with resources.Objective 3: Provide participants with educational based farm building knowledge that focuses on the economic sustainability of operating a farm. Participants will:Learn how buying a farm is an investment based on goalsLearn how to plan for short, medium, and long-term goalsLearn the basic budgeting system for accounting revenue and income and how a budget factors into an operationGain resources for ensuring veterans have the maximum income needed to successfully operate a farmLearn basic concepts of forest, pasture, and field management for future returnsObjective 4: Create new markets for veterans and their families through mentorship and networking opportunities with producers in NC. Participants will:Mentor with producers having specific goals and interests aligned with the participant.Learn how to establish new sales opportunities and gain contacts throughout NC that will effectively assist participants with sales and marketing opportunities.Objective 5: Provide a link between participants and currently producing farmers that are approaching retirement to transition farm land to a new generation. Participants shall:Learn the various ways to find land in NC from farmers exiting the agricultural industry.Utilize programs through NC Department of Agriculture's Marketing Division to link the retiring farmers and participants via publications such as the monthly Ag Review.Gain counseling on successful farm purchasing opportunities and procedures.Acquire other means of successful farmland transition such as NCSU's FarmLink program and market themselves as trained, ready-to-farm military veterans.100% of the proceeds from this proposal shall be used toward educating veterans and spouses in the local area. From data collected from STAG, approximately 10-20% of participants are spouses. We anticipate 80-90% of funds to be directed at veterans and the remainder towards spouses. Due to such a large demand from the area, we anticipate maximum participation coming from veterans and spouses, however, VATEP shall work towards assisting the public and more especially, socially disadvantaged minorities with agricultural education. Potential pitfalls include less than maximum participation during the first 1-2 cohorts. In the event this should occur, we will open enrollment to dependents of veterans (something STAG has not been able to do before), and minority farmers as well.
Funding Source
Nat'l. Inst. of Food and Agriculture
Project source
View this project
Project number
NC.W-2019-03602
Accession number
1020299
Categories
Education and Training
Risk Assessment, Management, and Communication