The National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) is teaming up with the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union to bring NCAT’s free Armed to Farm training to Colorado for the first time. Armed to Farm will take place August 29-September 2, 2022, in Boulder. Farmer-veterans will attend classroom sessions and travel to local farms for free hands-on learning experiences.

Armed to Farm trainings include an engaging blend of farm tours, hands-on activities, and interactive classroom instruction. NCAT Sustainable Agriculture specialists will lead the sessions. Staff from USDA agencies and experienced crop and livestock producers will provide additional instruction.

“We’re eager to bring Armed to Farm back to the West, and to train in Colorado for the first time,” said Armed to Farm Program Director Margo Hale. “Armed to Farm has served more than 900 veterans across the country as they start or grow their own sustainable farm business.”  

Armed to Farm is a sustainable agriculture training program for military veterans. NCAT, a national nonprofit organization based in Butte, Montana, developed Armed to Farm in 2013 through a cooperative agreement with USDA-Rural Development. Farmer veterans learn how to make a business plan and market their products, how to access USDA programs, set business goals, and develop mentorships with seasoned farmers.

Armed to Farm blew me away,” said Patrick Conrey, Armed to Farm alum and General Manager of the Oil Barn in Berthoud, Colorado. “Two years into my own agricultural business and I still reflect on the immersive experience as a highlight. The combination of in-field and in-class activities kept me engaged and paved the way. I would highly recommend the program to any veteran who is looking to turn their passion into a successful business.”

This training is for military veterans in the West. The number of participants will be limited. Spouses or farm partners are welcome to attend with a veteran but must submit a separate application.

Click HERE to apply by July 15. NCAT will notify selected participants by July 22.

NCAT and Rocky Mountain Farmers Union are partnering to host this Armed to Farm event. This work is supported by the USDA Natural Resources Conservations Service and the USDA Office of Partnerships and Public Engagement. Successful applicants may also receive a travel stipend thanks to our partnership with California-based Ranchin’ Vets.

Learn more about NCAT’s Armed to Farm and additional training series at ARMEDTOFARM.ORG.




Alvina Maynard likes to say she didn’t seek out alpaca ranching, rather it found her. Maynard is a military veteran in Richmond, Kentucky. It was during a hotel stay while she was still with the Air Force that she saw a commercial about alpacas being farmed as livestock. And the rest is history.  

Today, Maynard and her family operate River Hill Ranch. “We grow clothes,” she says. River Hill has evolved into a greater mission of regenerative agriculture and education. Not only is she growing clothes but she has also developed children’s educational programs and an agritourism operation. River Hill Ranch is selling their Kentucky-grown, American-made alpaca sweaters, socks, and hats at the Lexington Farmers Market, through an online store, and in an on-site gift shop. For Maynard, being part of the resurgence in American-made sustainable manufacturing is a big deal. “Our value-added manufacturing happens within a 400-mile radius of our farm. All our products are grown regeneratively, and manufactured using sustainable methods right here in the U.S.”  

Alvina Maynard River Hill Ranch 2Maynard says when she set out to launch her alpaca farm, she had no idea of the sustainable agriculture resources and farmer-veteran community that already existed. “When I came on to my land, it wasn’t in great shape,” she says. “I overgrazed my fields when I first started. I didn’t know how to manage ruminants correctly. ATTRA gave me the tools I needed to be able to do that. Not only did my land rebound, but the forage production per acre has at least doubled if not tripled because of the resources ATTRA empowered me with. I am now able to grow much more with less.”  

Maynard credits ATTRA and our sustainable agriculture experts who’ve provided the alpaca industry with technical assistance with changing the industry for the better. “ATTRA influenced a whole livestock industry in the U.S. to rethink how they were managing their livestock in a way that regenerates the soil.” 

Maynard was recently a guest on ATTRA’s podcast series, Voices from the Field. Give it a listen!

Sara Creech, an Air Force veteran, has been farming in Indiana since 2012, and says she knew from the beginning that she wanted her farm to be certified organic. She’s one of more than 350,000 veteran or active-duty service members involved in farming in the United States. She’s also one of more than 800 farmer veterans who have completed the Armed to Farm training program first launched in 2013 through a cooperative agreement with USDA-Rural Development. Armed to Farm is funded in part by ATTRA. 

Although Creech had no farming experience when she moved to her place back in 2012, you would never guess it seeing her farm today. We visited Sara’s operation, Blue Yonder Organic Farm. With help from Creech, along with the Farmer Veteran Coalition of Indiana and AgrAbility, we hosted an Armed to Farm training in Crawfordsville, Indiana, in 2019. We spent a sunny May afternoon with a group of some 20 veterans touring Creech’s farm and learning from her experiences. 

Blue Yonder Organic Farm is a picturesque 43-acre diversified farm about an hour west of Indianapolis. Creech produces certified organic chicken, beef, and lamb, as well as certified organic vegetables. In addition, she sells eggs, honey, mushrooms, and maple syrup. She sells her products through farmers markets and some contract growing. 

It is inspiring to have watched Creech progress from a beginning farmer in 2013 when she attended our very first Armed to Farm training in Fayetteville, Arkansas, to a successful farmer and seasoned mentor teaching a new cohort of farmer veterans. And Creech is just one of many Armed to Farm alumni finding and sharing their passion and purpose in farming. As agriculture educators, we really couldn’t ask for more. 

“The Armed to Farm program is THE reason I was able to get started in farming. The opportunity to connect with other veterans and support each other’s dreams was life changing,” Creech said. “The education and support from NCAT/ATTRA guided me through starting a profitable farm that fuels my new–found passion for farming.”

Learn more about Creech in this archived Voices from the Field podcast episode, Veterans Discuss USDA Programs.