USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) supports military members, veterans and their families through work initiatives and a variety of programs and services.
In May, NIFA honors Memorial Day and Mental Health Awareness Month by offering several webinars and through veteran-centric grant programs. Many veterans are finding healing and success through cultivating new careers in growing and supplying food and contributing to increased food security nationwide.
Beginning Farmers and Ranchers, and Military Veterans
Each year, NIFA invests millions of dollars in programs for U.S. farmers, ranchers and military veterans to help those interested in farming get a solid start in their new careers. Enhancing Agricultural Opportunities for Military Veterans (AgVets) is a NIFA grant program where funded projects are led by nonprofit veteran groups. AgVets offers onsite, hands-on training (including immersive model farm and ranch programs) plus classroom education to create pathways for military veterans interested in agriculture careers.
For example, One AgVets program is Ho`ōla Farms in Hawaii, led by military veteran spouse Emily Emmons. Ho`ōla Farms provides classroom training, hands-on farming instruction, and gives back to local communities by solving many of the Hawaiian food insecurity problems and donating food to low-income families across the island.
Another NIFA-supported grant program is Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program which funds projects for new farmers and ranchers to be taught the skills and knowledge needed to be successful 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 farming. Recently, they used the BFRDP grant to partner with the NC AgrAbility project to provide wounded warriors with raised beds. Veterans learned how to construct the equipment and were shown proper skills to grow food for surrounding communities.
Support for Disabled Veterans
AgrAbility is a consumer-driven, USDA-funded program with a special focus on military veterans. It provides vital education, assistance and support to farmers and ranchers with mental and physical disabilities. Through the combined dedication and expertise of AgrAbility, the Cooperative Extension System and nonprofit disability organizations, AgrAbility helps thousands of determined individuals overcome barriers to continue their chosen professions and maintain their agriculture identities in agriculture, while doing so safety and productively.
NIFA Veteran Emphasis Group
NIFA’s Veteran Emphasis Group serves as a resource for veterans employed at NIFA and for new veterans who may desire 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 within and outside the agency. This year the group collaborated with USDA and government-wide groups, spoke at agricultural and mental health events, attended Veteran Affairs meetings, and assisted in honoring the Women’s’ War Memorial in Washington, D.C.
In November, NIFA staff will join other USDA colleagues for the 2023 Annual Farmer Veteran Coalition Stakeholder Conference from November 12 - 14 in Washington, D.C. The conference offers the largest gathering of military and agricultural communities in the country. The AGVETS 2023 awardees will be announced during the conference.
To learn more about the NIFA Veterans Emphasis Program, contact Cyrstal.Kyle@usda.gov.