By Jon Turner, VFVC President & Ali Zipparo, VAAFM
On August 25 at the Vermont State House, Deputy Secretary Diane Bothfeld joined members of the Vermont Farmer Veteran Coalition (VFVC), FVC founder Michael O’ Gorman, Farm Credit VP Gary Matteson, and others in a celebration the kick-off of Homegrown By Heroes, a national branding program designed to raise consumer awareness of products produced by military veterans.
The mission of the Farmer Veteran Coalition is to mobilize veterans to feed America, and in Vermont, to provide veterans with educational and internship opportunities, assistance with land acquisition through federal and state programing, peer to peer mentorship, and an appropriate re-integration back into the civilian sector through ecological land stewardship.
Homegrown by Heroes began through the Kentucky Department of Agriculture and granted the Farmer Veteran Coalition to administer the program on Veterans Day in 2013. Since its inception, HGH has assisted over 500 veterans in 48 states to market their product as being from a veteran-owned operation. The Farmer Veteran Coalition currently has over 7,000 members in all 50 states and has given away over a million dollars to help a veteran establish or expand their agricultural operation.
The Farmer Veteran Coalition of Vermont is recognized as being one of the first four chapters of this national organization and has already garnered support from the Vermont Farm Bureau, NOFA-VT, the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Vermont AgrAbility, UVM Center for Sustainable Agriculture, Sterling College, U .S . Sen. Bernie Sanders’ Office and Congressman Peter Welch’s Office for veterans who are interested in transitioning into agriculture following their time in service.
Since December of 2015, the FVC-VT received a donation of 3,375 packets of seeds from High Mowing Organic Seeds (which were distributed to veterans in eight different states), pro-vided a keynote address at the fourth annual NEK Veterans Summit, hosted a veterans retreat in partner-ship with Zeno Mountain Farm in Lincoln, Vt ., partici-pated with the St . Michael’s Veterans Garden through the Vermont Community Garden Network and pro-vided agricultural guidance/sweat equity to our farmer veterans which include John Hojek’s Gold Star Roses in West Burke, Frank Hill’s Integrity farm in Grand Isle, and the Bowen family’s Meadowdale Farm in Putney.
VAAFM is proud to support the Vermont Farmer Veteran, and will continue to work with VFVC, VA, and other partners to create more opportunities for Veterans to engage in agriculture throughout the state.