It’s no secret rural America accounts for only 14 percent of our nation’s population.
However, it may surprise some that 44 percent of the men and women who serve our country in the military also have roots in small towns and rural communities.
Farmer Veteran Coalition
As veterans make the transition from military back to civilian life, many choose to pursue a career in agriculture. However, the transition into agriculture from the armed services presents challenges to many. That’s where the Farmer Veteran Coalition (FVC) steps in.
The Farmer Veteran Coalition supports veterans as they learn what they need to know about starting their farm and ranch businesses. Through training programs, incubator farms and a strong network of experienced farmer veterans, the Farmer Veteran Coalition cultivates a new generation of farmers and food leaders, developing viable employment and meaningful careers for those who have served our country.
Homegrown by Heroes
To help farmer veterans identify themselves in the marketplace, Farm Credit supports the Farmer Veteran Coalition's Homegrown by Heroes program—a voluntary marketing label available to farmer veterans.
Developed by the Kentucky Department of Agriculture in January 2013, the Homegrown by Heroes label has been administered nationally by the Farmer Veteran Coalition since Veterans Day of the same year. The program has since expanded to include nearly 3,000 members in all fifty states and Puerto Rico.
The Homegrown by Heroes label provides consumers the opportunity to support veterans while promoting a dialogue between the two. Ryan Lankford is a member of the Gros Ventre Tribe who farms on the Fort Belknap Reservation and is proud to be a part of Homegrown by Heroes.
“In today's business environment, it is can be scary to label your products with markers of your identity for fear of losing clients," Ryan said. "However, the Homegrown By Heroes label creates opportunities to talk to consumers about our experiences, our story, and to discover that we have more in common than how we identify ourselves or how others label us. The Homegrown By Heroes emblem not only identifies us as farmer veterans, but it also identifies the heroes among us.”
A new day for Homegrown by Heroes
On September 20, 2021, the Farmer Veteran Coalition was thrilled and honored to take full ownership of the Homegrown by Heroes label from the Kentucky Department of Agriculture.
The Kentucky Department of Agriculture has been a true leader when it comes to the label, first by initiating the project and now by passing it on to the Farmer Veteran Coalition to manage on behalf of their members, the farmer veterans of America.
Jeanette Lombardo, executive director of the Farmer Veteran Coalition, looks forward to facilitating the Homegrown By Hereos label and has admirable plans for expanding the program.
“Today is a milestone marking the next chapter in the life of Homegrown By Heroes Trademark label,” Jeanette said. “The Homegrown By Heroes trademark is the cornerstone of the marketing plan the Farmer Veteran Coalition developed to assist our farmer veterans in achieving success with the sales of their products. With the transfer of the ownership label, we look to see the expanded use of the label at local farmer's markets and online with MarketMaker, which facilitates internet sales to consumers and new markets.”
The Farmer Veteran Coalition is also establishing relations with corporate and government procurement sectors to create more opportunities for their members in the certified veteran growers space.
Mission driven, customer focused
Farm Credit has been a proud partner on Homegrown by Heroes from the beginning. As a farmer-owned cooperative, Farm Credit recognizes the importance of resources like Homegrown By Heroes for returning veterans. Gary Matteson serves as president of the Farmer Veteran Coalition board of directors and welcomes the growth the program has seen over the years.
“Our military veterans served this country with honor and a special few are willing to take on the daunting task of starting a farming operation,” Farm Credit Council’s Gary Matteson said. “Farm Credit believes supporting farmer veterans as they get started is the right thing to do for them, and it also helps strengthen our rural communities.”
“Farm Credit has given us a tremendous amount of support,” Farmer Veteran Coalition executive director and founder Michael O’Gorman said. “Not just funding—they’ve also provided staff time and expertise at the national level, and local Farm Credit associations are also actively supporting our programs and our veterans.”
Looking ahead, the Farmer Veteran Coalition and Farm Credit are so excited for the possibilities of the Homegrown By Heroes label and its capacity to educate consumers and support farmer veterans across the country.