11 Projects Promoting Veteran Health and Sustainable Food Systems

From foodtank.com
Daniel Stein

This Veteran’s Day, Food Tank brings you 11 projects that are working to support Veterans in healing their wounds and reintegrating into civilian life. There are currently more than 18 million Veterans in the U.S. and less than half are employed. Moreover, 20 percent of our Veterans are living with a service-connected disability and the youngest Veterans are increasingly diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or other mental health conditions. The U.S. armed forces are expected to shed 250,000 veterans per year for the next several years, and many of these men and women will be hoping to build a new life.

Through food and farming, our country’s heroes can continue to apply learned skills while feeding and protecting their families and communities. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), gardens offer many benefits for both physical and mental health. These projects are not only helping Veterans succeed, they are also working towards building a brighter and more resilient food system.

Armed to Farm, a program of the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT), provides sustainable agriculture training for veterans. NCAT specialists have been involved in seventeen veteran farmer trainings and have reached over eight hundred veterans.

Combat Boots to Cowboy Boots is a University of Nebraska-Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture program that prepares veterans to work in the agricultural field through education and training. The program helps match the participants with farm and ranch owners.

Eat the Yard, in Dallas, Texas, was founded by Iraq War veterans, James Jeffers and Steve Smith, to cultivate fresh produce in community gardens. Jeffers and Smith first began organic farming in their own backyards for both therapeutic and financial reasons, then slowly began to build more gardens in their community. They now sell the produce from these gardens to local restaurants and businesses.

Enhancing Veterans Farm Fellows Program enrolls veterans from every era and teaches them everything from creating a business plan to growing organic produce. The mission of the Florida based organization is to help veterans reintegrate into society, and it focuses on veterans suffering from brain injury and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), as well as the younger cohort of veterans who are most at-risk of unemployment.

Growing Careers in Agriculture, a program of the Farmer Veteran Coalition, provides training and apprenticeships to Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. Apprenticeships are paid, last three to six months, and offer educational and training opportunities with organic farms and artisan food businesses in northern California.

Heroic Food, a non-profit in New York, trains military veterans for careers in sustainable farming, agricultural trades, and food entrepreneurship. Their Full-Year Immersion Program provides training on their twenty-acre sustainable farm and includes apprenticeships in the local food and agriculture industry.

Veteran Farmer Program, a hands-on program of the Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food and Agriculture, aims to develop a new cohort of farmers by providing opportunities and support to veterans. Specifically, this program is encouraging Veterans to engage in organic and regenerative farming practices to capitalize on an ever growing market of local, sustainable food.

Veteran Sustainable Agriculture Training At California State Polytechnic University in Pomona, helps transitioning veterans work toward successful careers in sustainable agriculture. For six to twelve weeks, veterans learn about topics such as hydroponics, greenhouse management, compost, and soil biology. The program, which accepts veteran education benefits, has seen more than three hundred graduates since 2009.

Vets to Ag is a program at Michigan State University that trains homeless U.S. veterans to work in the field of agriculture. Participants are trained in areas such as plant and soil science, equipment operation, and integrated pest management. Job development and employer outreach is included in the Vets to Ag program.

Veterans to Farmers (VTF) strives to bring family farming back to the forefront of the American landscape. VTF was founded by U.S. Marine Corps Veteran Buck Adams in 2011 after overwhelming veteran interest in his organic greenhouse program. Veterans complete a 12-week program, then VTF provides employment support. Several of the VTF graduates now own their own greenhouses, including Evan Premer who describes the greenhouse as a “decompression zone.”

Warriors that Farm works with Texas A&M University in order to provide opportunities for veterans through sustainable agriculture. The university provides credit hours upon completion of the program.