DUFFIELD, Va., 10/17/2023 – Appalachian Sustainable Development (ASD) has been awarded $750,000 for a three-year project titled “Boots on the Ground: Supporting Veterans in Agriculture.”As one of only eleven projects funded, from September 2023 to September 14, 2026, ASD will recruitfarmer veterans and aspiring farmer veterans, and offer paid programming free to military veterans and their families. Through a comprehensive and replicable model, and with a variety of veteran services partners, ASD will help grow opportunities for veterans by providing them with specific resources based on their needs and interests, skills, and agriculture career goals.
The project meets people where they are to remove any barriers to participation in the farming and food production economy. With a goal to serve veterans, increase the number of working farmers in the region and support beginning farmers to ensure their success, this effort will address a critical farmer shortage impacted by recent supply chain challenges. Food insecurity will also be addressed through the installation of 120 Patriot Gardens that will provide military veterans with raised bed vegetable gardens installed by other military veteran volunteers.
Michael Klarman, ASD’s Veteran Outreach Coordinator explains, “ASD does a phenomenal job in pairing our educational programs to veterans’ specific needs in learning agricultural practices while striving to become self-sustaining on their land. This funding will help us serve veterans by meeting the direct needs of veterans and by showing them the practical applications of these educational programs.”
Because veterans are vulnerable populations facing multiple challenges, ASD will partner with several community organizations to provide additional support and make referrals. Through the use of surveys, interviews, and focus group data collection methods, issues of particular relevance to veterans will be addressed. Providing connections to community wraparound service providers will be a key element of this work.
ASD will provide training opportunities to address critical labor shortage areas at all levels of the supply chain with hands-on training, education and certifications. These training programs will utilize best practices in adult education according to state and federal regulations with emphasis on regenerative agriculture techniques to reduce cost and negative impacts on the environment.
Participants will also have access to resources at ASD’s Appalachian Harvest Food Hub and on various farms or food production sites. Participants will be able to design their training to meet their goals and instill best-practice strategies, including on-farm placements for beginning farmers without access to land. Assistance with job placement or startup support for agricultural entrepreneurs will also be provided.
Upon completion of the training, veterans will be connected to ASD’s vast network of partners in the local food supply chain. They will also be supplied with marketing materials that highlights them as veterans with key links to wholesale markets, direct-to-consumer sales opportunities, ways to develop value-added products for institutional buyers and more.
Through regular meetings with ASD staff, participants will increase their skills at using digital tools to increase accessibility, specifically through ASD’s Veteran Support Coalition, made up of farmer veterans to support other farmer veterans.
About Appalachian Sustainable Development (ASD)
Living Better. Locally. It’s what drives ASD’s commitment to build a thriving regional food and agriculture system that creates healthy communities, respects the planet, and cultivates profitable opportunities for Appalachians. Since 1995, ASD has been working in Central Appalachia, providing hope and making a difference for the people who call the region home. What began as opportunities for struggling tobacco farmers to grow fruits and vegetables have become lasting solutions to regional challenges that impact economic development, workforce development, food access, health, and wellness.
A leader in sustainable agriculture, economic and workforce development, and food access, ASD is developing a destination agriculture campus where innovation meets agriculture in Washington County, Virginia. To learn more about ASD, visit: https://asdevelop.org.