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NIFA Programs Salute and Assist Veterans and their Families

Whether protecting our nation and its highest ideals with military service or ensuring a safe, abundant, and nutritious food supply as veterans, we are grateful for their willingness to serve.

For more than 35 years, USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and the U.S. Departments of Defense and Veteran Affairs have collaborated to support those who support America – the U.S. military Veterans and their families. These collaborations have helped thousands of military families gain access to the high quality educational programs in early childhood education, youth development, community capacity and related fields that land-grant university cooperative extension services provide.

From Camouflage to Crops - USDA Offers Veterans New Career Opportunities

At USDA, we are thankful for the military men and women who are serving or have served this nation.  We are committed to providing them with opportunities for their next career to be in agriculture.

USDA employs more than 11,000 veterans and since 2009 have provided more than $505 million in direct farm loans to more than 7,400 veterans to start, maintain or grow their farming operations. USDA has service centers across the country where veterans can find out about farming and other USDA programs and services.

Making the Grader - USDA's New Program Offers Veterans a Path into Agriculture

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.

Veteran Farmers, In Their Own Voice


“Agriculture is not often the first thing people think of for returning veterans. That’s why we are elevating the discussion about veterans and agriculture.”  ~Secretary Vilsack

This week, Secretary Vilsack, Deputy Secretary Harden and I met with 35 military veterans who are now farmers and ranchers. Hosted by the Farmer Veteran Coalition and the Farm Credit Council, these men and women came to USDA to discuss the opportunities and resources available to veterans interested in agriculture. Many of them participate in the Homegrown by Heroes campaign which celebrates local products grown, raised and produced by farmer veterans across the country.

As the Department’s Military Veteran Agricultural Liaison and a veteran of the Marine Corps myself, I know there are many reasons military veterans turn to agriculture. For some, running a farm business gives them an opportunity to put their logistical training to work. For others, farming lets them continue serving their community. Many veterans talk about how working on the land helps them successfully transition to civilian life. And still others discuss how agriculture gives them purpose.

No one can explain the deep connection between veterans and agriculture better than veteran farmers themselves. Here are a few of their voices.

At the Intersection of Agriculture and the U.S. Military

Red, white, and blue balloons soared high above the bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables from local farmers and vendors at the opening of the 19th season of the USDA Farmers Market.  With echoes of the Star Spangled Banner played by the “President’s Own” Marine Band, we celebrated the service of our men and women in uniform, reaffirming USDA’s commitment to supporting veterans and active-duty service members.  We also celebrated several points of intersection between American agriculture and the military community.

From our partners and stakeholders who joined us for the event, we saw amazing generosity and dedication to improving the lives of military families.  Burpee Seed Company handed out thousands of Welcome Home Garden Project seed packets, bringing the healing gift of gardening to thousands of heroes.  With over 165,000 families participating and over 1.8 million seed packets distributed over the last two years, their efforts to provide healing, comfort and homegrown foods are truly inspiring.

USDA Farmers Market Opens with a Recipe to Honor Our Veterans

I love farmers markets. The vibrant colors, enticing smells, and vivacious people make me feel so very alive and happy. Local markets also work to bring communities together.  I have been to a number of farmers markets across the U.S., but my favorite one is located right here in Washington, DC—in fact, it’s right here at USDA.

My agency, the Agricultural Marketing Service, is proud to host the USDA Farmers Market each week, building connections to the vendors, customers, and surrounding community.  Tomorrow, June 6, the USDA Farmers Market opens a new season with a salute to our military, veterans and American agriculture.   We will not only celebrate the bounty of the market, but will also thank our military for serving with valor, courage, and distinction.

Pioneer African-American Smokejumper Laid to Rest at Arlington National Cemetery

During World War II, a time when segregation was still a part of everyday life, a group of 17 brave men took the plunge to serve their country and become the first all African-American paratrooper unit known as the Triple Nickles.

The battalion’s original goal – to join the fight in Europe – was thwarted when military leaders in Europe feared racial tensions would disrupt operations. At about the same time, the U.S. Forest Service asked the military for help to minimize damage caused by balloon bombs launched by the Japanese across the Pacific Ocean with the intent to start forest fires in the western U.S. during World War II.

In the end, few of the incendiary devices reached U.S. soil, but the Triple Nickles were instrumental in helping the Forest Service fight naturally-caused fires. They became history’s first military smokejumpers who answered 36 fire calls and made more than 1,200 jumps that summer of 1945.

Enviando Regalos de Alimentos a Miembros de Las Fuerzas Armadas

Pasar los días navideños en el hogar no será posible para muchos miembros de las fuerzas armadas. Así que la segunda mejor opción es recibir saludos y regalos comestibles de parte de familiares. Varios alimentos son inocuos para mandar por el correo en tanto se tenga el nombre y dirección del militar estacionado en el extranjero. Por riesgos de seguridad, el Servicio Postal no enviará correo dirigido a “cualquier miembro de las fuerzas armadas”.

Es importante mandar alimentos no perecederos, que pueden tolerar un rango de temperaturas variadas y que no se romperá con manipulación brusca. Regalos de alimentos que se pueden enviar de forma segura incluyen: ‘jerky’ o cecina de res, frutas secas, alimentos enlatados y condimentos regionales como la salsa picante. Galletas hechas en casa, dulces, panes de baja humedad también duran lo suficiente como para ser enviados por  correo.

Tips on Sending Food Gifts to U.S. Military

Being home for the holidays will not be possible this year for many American armed forces. The next best thing may be receiving greetings and gifts of food items. Many foods are safe to mail. However, you must have the name and address of a military person stationed overseas. Because of security risks, the U.S. Postal Service will not deliver mail addressed to “Any Serviceman.”

It’s important to mail food gifts that are not perishable, can tolerate a range of temperatures, and won’t break with rough handling. Food gifts that can be safely mailed include dried products such as jerky and fruits, shelf stable canned specialties, and regional condiments such as hot sauces. Homemade cookies, candy, and low-moisture breads and bar cookies are also good candidates for mailing.

Forest Service Waives Fees in Celebration of Veterans Day Weekend

The U.S. Forest Service will offer a fee-free weekend for all visitors Nov. 9-11 in celebration of Veterans Day, the fourth time this year the agency has participated in the fee-free program.

The Forest Service, which does not charge users to enter national forests or grasslands, offers the incentive in cooperation with other federal agencies under the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act.

Day-use fees will be waived at all standard amenity fee sites operated by the Forest Service. Concessionaire operated day-use sites may be included in the waiver if the permit holder wishes to participate.