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Farmer Veteran Coalition Announces New State Chapters
Michigan Ag Connection - 09/29/2020

Farmer Veteran Coalition announces new state chapters in Arkansas, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tenneesee.

These four new state organizations join a growing network of state chapters now numbering 13 that boast ties to a national organization dedicated to cultivating a new generation of farmers and food leaders while helping our veterans with their new post-service mission.

The Farmer Veteran Coalition (FVC) is a non-profit that helps veterans pursue careers in agriculture. Headquartered in Davis, Calif., it serves a network of over 20,000 veteran members nationwide. FVC works with the agricultural community, partners and sponsors to support those who served our country once by defending it, and now serve a second time as farmers feeding it.

Many operate their own independent farms.

"Ever increasing numbers of our military veterans come from rural areas," says Michael O'Gorman, the project's founder and chief agricultural officer. "We find ways to offer them opportunities in agriculture. We assist veterans obtaining everything from equipment, business plans, financial advice and training."

Rooted in its strong belief that veterans possess the unique skills and character needed to strengthen rural communities and create sustainable food systems, the organization recognizes that agriculture additionally offers veterans purpose, opportunity, and physical and psychological benefits.

Already with chapter presence in Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, New York, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington, FVC has a major impact at the local level.

Chapters are effective at integrating farmer veterans into local agricultural communities. They bridge the gap between a nationally driven movement and resources at the state/county level to help them achieve success in agriculture. They are essential for ensuring members are aware of regional opportunities.

FVC relies heavily on its state leaders to connect with members; they offer an additional way to personalize the farmer veteran experience to individual needs.

"Because national travel remains uncertain, our chapters may be the first to organize local gatherings and on-farm training opportunities that are so important to our members," shared O'Gorman, whose greatest pride is helping these veterans with their new mission.

"Even as we are unable to engage in person on a larger scale, chapter organizers are networking with local farmer veterans through teleconference capabilities; the growth is occurring despite COVID-19."

This, in part, fueled FVC's goal for significant chapter development in 2020.

To facilitate this growth, FVC standardized the governance of chapters last year. In Austin last November for their national Stakeholders Conference, more than 200 veterans dedicated an extra day to learn about building presence in their states showing their commitment to serving others and explanding FVC impact across the U.S.

Arkansas, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee are the first to emerge as official new chapters since that gathering.

"Having these four new state chapters moves us one step closer toward our long-term vision of regional expansion in sync with the USDA's ten farm production regions," beamed Jeanette Lombardo, who recently took over as FVC's executive director in July. "We have committed considerable time and resources towards developing more active chapters as we move into 2021."

FVC is the nation's largest nonprofit organization assisting veterans and active duty members of the U.S. Armed Forces to embark on careers in agriculture. With the mission of mobilizing veterans to feed America, it provides education, resources and small grants to help veterans launch their own farming operation or find employment in related agricultural professions. Established in 2008, FVC's network of more than 20,000 veteran members from all 50 states and U.S. territories are served by mentors in the areas of agricultural production, law, business planning and career counseling. Its in-house programs include the Farmer Veteran Fellowship Fund small grant program, and the nationally recognized Homegrown By Heroes label for veteran-grown products. FVC has been successful in getting millions of dollars of USDA funds appropriated for farmer veteran and the groups that support them. They have built an extended community of organizations that look to them for leadership and guidance as the pioneer in this military-to-agriculture movement. Learn more at: www.farmvetco.org.


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