Texas A&M AgriLife Extension is offering a new program to help military veterans interested in becoming farmers and ranchers.
Texas AgrAbility launched the Battleground to Breaking Ground: A Transformational Journey in 2012. The workshop was designed to address four key areas of agriculture business: planning, rural business opportunities, the Texas AgrAbility program; and funding sources, according to Dr. Rick Peterson, AgriLife Extension state specialist, family and community heath, College Station.
Texas AgrAbility has provided education and resources to more than 600 beginning farmers and ranchers, 70 percent of them being military veterans, through these free workshops.
Texas AgrAbility was awarded a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture in 2016 to expand services to veterans and other beginning Texas farmers and ranchers.
“With this grant, we are initiating the Battleground to Breaking Ground Entrepreneurial Training Project to increase the number of veteran farmers and ranchers in Texas through face-to-face and online training, as well as hands-on experiential training and technical guidance,” Peterson told AgriLife Today.
Project staff are looking for prospective beginning veteran farmers and ranchers throughout the state interested in participating in the program. The deadline for initial applicants is March 10.
“Applicants can be from anywhere in the state,” Peterson said. “We’ll coordinate with our partners to provide access to training and hands-on field experience.”
Organizations collaborating with AgriLife Extension on the project include the Farmers Assisting Returning Military, or FARM, program, Farmer Veteran Coalition, VetAdvisor, Millican Alliance, Texas Center for Rural Entrepreneurship, Texas Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“The program will feature online courses related to business planning, risk management, goal setting, funding sources, recordkeeping, budgeting, marketing, agricultural safety and crop and livestock production,” Erin Pilosi-Kimbrough, AgriLife Extension program coordinator in College Station, told AgriLife Today. “It will also incorporate hands-on field trainings, mentorship, individual education planning and transition services and disability support.”
The mentorship program is one of the most important aspects of the new program, according to Pilosi-Kimbrough.
“We’ll be putting vets who want to begin an agricultural enterprise together with others involved in similar operations so they can learn from them and better understand the pros and cons of that particular business,” Pilosi-Kimbrough said.
The project aims to give veterans with and without disabilities better access to resources and opportunities—not only in agriculture but in other career areas as well–according to Dr. Cheryl Grenwelge, AgriLife Extension specialist in disability transition in College Station.
Grenwelge said the project launch events are planned for April 28 in College Station and in Dallas on June 23.
“This will give beginning farmers and ranchers the opportunity to see what the project is all about and learn what resources and types of assistance are available to them,” Pilosi-Kimbrough said.
For more information and to apply for the project, visit http://txagrability.tamu.edu/farm-ranch/.