The National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), a division of the USDA, provides job projects, a range of programs, and services to support military personnel, veterans, and their families.
NIFA celebrates Memorial Day and Mental Health Awareness Month in May by providing various webinars and via grant initiatives that are specifically tailored for veterans. Through developing new occupations in food production and supply, many veterans are getting the healing and success they need to help boost food security across the country.
Beginning Farmers and Ranchers, and Military Veterans
To assist people who are interested in farming in getting a strong start in their new careers, NIFA invests millions of dollars annually in initiatives for American farmers, ranchers, and military veterans. A NIFA grant program called Enhancing Agricultural Opportunities for Military Veterans (AgVets) funds programs that are overseen by nonprofit veteran organizations. For military veterans interested in professions in agriculture, AgVets provides on-site, hands-on training (including intensive model farm and ranch programs) in addition to classroom instruction.
One AgVets initiative, for instance, is Ho’la Farms in Hawaii, run by Emily Emmons, a spouse of a soldier. Ho’la Farms solves many of the issues with Hawaiian food insecurity and donates food to low-income households all across the island in addition to offering classroom teaching and practical agricultural training.
The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, which sponsors initiatives to provide young farmers and ranchers with the knowledge and skills necessary to succeed on their own farms and ranches, is another grant program funded by NIFA. For instance, North Carolina (NC) Veterans Farm trains military personnel who wish to undertake farming after they leave active duty. Recently, they partnered with the NC AgrAbility initiative to construct elevated beds for injured soldiers using the BFRDP award. Veterans were taught how to build the machinery and were given the right training to grow food for the local populations.
Support for Disabled Veterans
AgrAbility is a USDA-funded, consumer-driven initiative with a particular focus on veterans of the armed forces. It offers essential information, support, and help to farmers and ranchers with physical and mental challenges. AgrAbility supports thousands of determined people in overcoming obstacles so they can continue their chosen professions and maintain their agriculture identities in agriculture, while doing so safely and productively, with the help of the Cooperative Extension System and nonprofit disability organizations.
NIFA Veteran Emphasis Group
The Veteran Emphasis Group at NIFA is a resource for both current employees who are veterans and new veterans who might be interested in joining the NIFA workforce. Veterans, their families, and veteran advocates get together as the Veteran Emphasis group to advocate for veterans, take part in events like Memorial Day and Veterans Day, and exchange information both inside and outside the organization. This year, the organization worked with the USDA and other federal agencies, spoke at conferences on mental health and agriculture, attended meetings on veteran affairs, and helped recognize the Women’s War Memorial in Washington, D.C.
The 2023 Annual Farmer Veteran Coalition Stakeholder Conference will take place in November from November 12 to 14 in Washington, D.C., and NIFA staff members will attend together with other USDA colleagues. The conference hosts the biggest national meeting of the military and agriculture communities. The meeting will feature the announcement of the AGVETS 2023 prize recipients.