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USDA Programs Help Ease Transition to Farming, One Vet at a Time

Posted by Dr. Desiree Rucker, Program Specialist, National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Division of Agricultural Systems in Conservation
Feb 21, 2017
A corn field
Kyle Cox redeployed his energies to grow corn and other crops on the family farm after 12 years in the Army. Cox, a graduate of Farm Beginnings, is one of many veteran training programs supported by USDA’s Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program.

Located three miles east of Vale, South Dakota, on Cox Farms, Cox Sweet Corn is produced by veteran Kyle Cox, who left the Army after 12 years to return to the family farm.

In 2013, Cox separated from the Army to begin his family’s future in agriculture. With 700 acres, the farm produces alfalfa, corn, and more than 2,000 head of cattle.  To help make the most of his agricultural opportunities, Cox took advantage of veteran-focused training funded by U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).  The training is part of USDA-wide effort to support veteran farmers.

“Veterans offer many things to rural communities, including the unique skills and the character to strengthen economies and create sustainable food systems,” said Jill Auburn, national program leader for NIFA’s Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP). “Agriculture presents our vets nation’s veterans with purpose, opportunity, and physical and psychological benefits.”

In 2014, Cox graduated from Farm Beginnings, a 12-month Land Stewardship Project training program that gives participants an opportunity to learn sustainable farm management. In addition, Cox was awarded the 2014 Homegrown by Heroes Award, the official Farmer Veteran Branding program of America.

“I value producer-to-consumer relationships,” said Cox, who decided to “go into farmers markets” when he left the Army for the family farm. Cox Sweet Corn is available at Black Hills Farmers Market and other local farmer venues in the Vale area. He also plans to add hoop houses to extend his tomato season and promote his website for easy produce ordering.

“BFRDP supports several veteran training programs across America to invest in veterans who work in farming and agriculture,” Auburn said.  USDA features several veteran programs, including the Farmer Veteran Coalition, Armed to Farm, and Veterans Farm.  On Oct. 29, 2015, NIFA announced funding availability for BFRDP programs in 2016.  Programs will provide education and networking opportunities to veterans reentering the workforce with the desire to farm.

This Veterans Day, USDA and NIFA say thank you to all who have served and invite all to become the future of farming in America through the Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Development Program.

NIFA invests in and advances agricultural research, education, and extension and seeks to make transformative discoveries that solve societal challenges.

Category/Topic: Conservation

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