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Posts tagged: veterans

Making the Grader – USDA’s New Program Offers Veterans a Path into Agriculture

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack with military veterans

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, greets military veterans James Youngblood, Staff Sergeant, United States Army, Cari Bains, Staff Sergeant, United States Army, Charles Horton Sr., Master Sergeant, United States Air Force, Jeffrery Dezort, Corporal, United States Marine Corps, Paul Derdzinski, Staff Sergeant, United States Army and Anthony Williams, Sergeant First Class, United States Army comprising the inaugural cohort of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Commodity Grader Apprenticeship Program at the USDA in Washington, DC on Mon., Oct. 3, 2016. The program is a Department of Labor (DOL) Registered Apprenticeship providing technical training and professional development to prepare employees to serve American agriculture. After successfully completing the 12-month pilot program, the apprentices will have a nationally recognized Department of Labor Apprentice Accreditation and the skills and training for professional success. USDA Photo by Ken Melton.

Over the last eight years, we’ve seen an increase in the number of veterans turning to agriculture for their post-service career. While many choose farming and ranching, others seek employment in the agriculture industry as well as federal service. USDA employs more than 11,000 veterans, and we’re looking to increase that number through a new apprenticeship program.

The program, which is being launched this week by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) in partnership with the Department of Labor (DOL) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), is a registered national apprenticeship that will grow a pool of talent for USDA. Although it is open to anyone interested in a career in agriculture, we are especially proud that it offers America’s veterans one more way to join our ranks. Read more »

Military Experience Opens Door for Soldier to Return to the Farm

Veteran Tracy Robinson

Veteran Tracy Robinson’s military experience counted toward farming experience, allowing him to access USDA microloan funding.

Graduating from high school in the small town of Blakely, Georgia, Tracy Robinson was required to take an armed forces aptitude test. When asked what he wanted to do with his life, Robinson said he wanted to farm. The Marine recruiter told him he would be a great field artilleryman.

“I heard the word field and thought it had something to do with farming,” said Robinson. He enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps and after finding out field artillery had nothing to do with farming he stayed and fought for his country for 24 years, serving in Desert Shield, Afghanistan and Iraq. Read more »

Breaking Down Barriers to Address Food Insecurity

A woman checking food

USDA engages in extensive partner engagement and collaboration with both traditional and non-traditional partners, including tribal organizations.

No American should have to go hungry.  USDA’s 15 nutrition assistance programs make great strides in reaching those in need, but challenges and barriers persist to eradicating food insecurity in our nation.  That’s where leadership and partnerships come into play.

Earlier this month, FNS had the opportunity to participate in an interactive discussion on the obstacles faced on effectively communicating to specific populations at the 2016 Feeding America Annual Conference in Chicago.  The dialogue focused on reaching the most vulnerable Americans: those in Tribal communities, teens and our nation’s proud military veterans.  The hurdles to reach all three are unique, and strategies require nuance, understanding and a bold commitment to better connect individuals with nutrition assistance information. Read more »

A Conversation with USDA Leader Lanon Baccam

Lanon Baccam, Deputy Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services and USDA Military Veterans Agricultural Liaison

Lanon Baccam, Deputy Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services and USDA Military Veterans Agricultural Liaison, helps connect veterans with opportunities in the field of agriculture.

Lanon Baccam serves as the Deputy Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services (FFAS). Baccam oversees the domestic programs within FFAS, including Farm Service Agency and Risk Management Agency. Baccam also serves as the USDA Military Veterans Agricultural Liaison. Being an Army veteran, he connects veterans with opportunities in the field of agriculture, providing information to returning veterans about services available to them through USDA.

This interview took place at Arlington National Cemetery, where scores of service men and women lay at rest after giving the ultimate sacrifice to protect our country. Read more »

Agriculture Saved A Veteran’s Life

Eric Grandon and his family selling their local food products at a Farmer's Market

Eric Grandon and his family sell their local food products at a Farmer's Market in Clay County, West Virginia.

Eric Grandon of West Virginia is a war hero in the truest sense. Spending nearly 20 years in the Army, he was a combat veteran in Operation Desert Storm, Operation Iraqi Freedom II, and participated in four peace-time missions to the Middle East. Yet, when a horrific flashback overtook him in 2011, he was unable to continue his job as a Physical Therapist Assistant and was deemed unemployable and permanently disabled from PTSD. Unable to work, he found himself wandering around his farm aimlessly for nearly two years until he met James McCormick, the present Director of the Veterans and Warriors Agriculture program under the West Virginia Department of Agriculture.

A veteran himself, McCormick encouraged Grandon to take up farming, which had helped him work through his own PTSD. It was during a USDA Armed to Farm conference hosted by the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) that Grandon officially decided to become a farmer.  He even took up beekeeping which he found to be the most therapeutic of them all often bringing tears of joy to his eyes. Read more »

Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Find One-Stop Shop in Farm Answers

Dairy farm with red barn in autumn is a clearinghouse of information to help farmers and ranchers better manage their operations. Photo courtesy of Jeff Reisdorfer

The following guest blog from a web communications coordinator at the University of Minnesota’s Center for Farm Financial Management highlights the information clearinghouse for new and beginning farmers and ranchers. Farm Answers is a vital element of the USDA-wide effort to make it easier for people to find USDA programs and services.

By Jeff Reisdorfer, University of Minnesota

(The U.S. Department of Agriculture on April 11 opened a new information clearinghouse for new agriculture producers,

Farmers and ranchers, like owners of other start-up companies, face serious challenges, including the need for easy to access, reliable information and technical assistance for getting their businesses started. is a website clearinghouse where farmers and ranchers can find online courses, videos, presentations, apps, and other materials – more than 3,175 at this time – to answer farming and ranching questions.  FarmAnswers is supported by a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) through its Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP). Read more »