USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) supports the military, veterans, and their families through workforce initiatives and a variety of programs and services.
In May, NIFA honors Memorial Day and Mental Health Awareness Month by offering various webinars and through veteran-focused grant programs. Many veterans are finding healing and success cultivating new careers in growing and supplying food and contributing to greater food security across the country.
Beginning farmers and ranchers, and military veterans
Each year, NIFA invests millions of dollars in programs for farmers, ranchers, and U.S. military veterans to help those interested in agriculture get a strong start in their new careers. Improving Agricultural Opportunities for Military Veterans (AgVets) is a NIFA grant program where funded projects are run by non-profit veteran groups. AgVets offers hands-on, on-site training (including immersive model farm and ranch programs) in addition to classroom education to create pathways for military veterans interested in agricultural careers.
For example, the One AgVets program is Ho`ōla Farms in Hawaii, run by military veteran wife Emily Emmons. Ho`ōla Farms provides classroom training, hands-on farming instruction, and gives back to local communities by solving many of Hawaii’s food insecurity issues and donating food to low-income families across the island.
Another NIFA-supported grant program is the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, which funds projects for new farmers and ranchers to learn the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed on their own farms and ranches. For example, North Carolina (NC) Veterans Farm provides skills to military members leaving active duty who want to start working in agriculture. They recently used the BFRDP grant to partner with the NC AgrAbility project to provide raised beds for wounded warriors. Veterans learned how to build equipment and were shown the proper skills to grow food for surrounding communities.
Disabled Veteran Support
AgrAbility is a USDA-funded, consumer-driven program with a special focus on military veterans. Provides vital education, assistance and support to farmers and ranchers with mental and physical disabilities. Through the combined dedication and experience of AgrAbility, the Cooperative Extension System, and nonprofit disability organizations, AgrAbility helps thousands of determined individuals overcome barriers to continuing their chosen professions and keeping their agricultural identities in farming, while doing so safely and productively.
NIFA Veterans Emphasis Group
The NIFA Veterans Emphasis Group serves as a resource for veterans employed by NIFA and for new veterans who wish to contribute their skills to the NIFA workforce. The Veteran Emphasis group is made up of veterans, their families, and veteran advocates who work together to advocate for veterans, actively participate in observances such as Memorial Day and Veterans Day, and share resources inside and outside the community. agency. This year, the group collaborated with USDA and groups across government, spoke at agricultural and mental health events, attended Veterans Affairs meetings, and helped honor the Women’s War Memorial in Washington, D.C.
In November, NIFA staff will join other USDA colleagues for the 2023 Farm Veterans Coalition Annual Stakeholders Conference November 12-14 in Washington, DC The conference offers the largest gathering of military communities and agriculture in the country. AGVETS 2023 winners will be announced during the conference.
For more information about the NIFA Veterans Emphasis Program, contact [email protected].