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A story about the Armed to Urban Farm program’s recent training has been featured on more than 40 television news stations around the country. The free training included two virtual sessions and three days of in-person sessions in Memphis, TN.

Armed to Urban Farm, presented in partnership with the U.S. Botanic Garden, is an outgrowth of NCAT’s Armed to Farm program. Since 2013, more than 900 farmer veterans have received sustainable agriculture training through Armed to Farm.

Armed to Urban Farm is unique in its focus on operating a farming business in the city. Attendees at the Memphis training learned about business planning, marketing, land access, and legal issues farmers can face. In addition, they spent time on urban farms in Memphis, learning from experienced urban farmers and building relationships with fellow farmer veterans.

“They’re here to learn and connect with each other and see what they might be able to take back to their own operations,” said U.S. Botanic Garden education specialist Emily Hestness.

Veterans who attend Armed to Urban Farm come to learn about vegetable, fruit, and flower production, with goals of feeding their families and communities. Many, such as Army veteran Charley Jordan, also have discovered therapeutic benefits from engaging in agriculture.

“It was helpful for me and I figured this must be helpful for other veterans…So, I’m slowly moving on to working more with veterans and mental health and using plants as healing.”

Whatever the farmer veterans’ goals may be, Armed to Urban Farm offers support and educational resources even after the training event ends. Farming is a challenging profession, as NCAT Sustainable Agriculture Specialist Mike Lewis points out, but farmer veterans are used to challenges from their time in military service.

“and we think that if you’ve already started the hardest job in the world, why can’t we transition you into the second?”

NCAT and the U.S. Botanic Garden have hosted Armed to Urban Farm training events in Washington, D.C., Cleveland, OH, and Baltimore, MD. For more information, visit ARMEDTOFARM.ORG.

Watch the full piece, here.

NCAT’s Armed to Farm program recently celebrated its thirtieth week-long training with an event at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina. We spent July 25-29 in the beautiful High Country of North Carolina and got to visit operations that reflect the distinctive agriculture of the region.

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.

The National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) is partnering with Appalachian State University’s Frontline to Farm program to bring the free Armed to Farm training to North Carolina for the first time. Armed to Farm will take place July 25-29, 2022, at the Appalachian State University campus in Boone. Farmer-veterans will attend classroom sessions and travel to local farms for 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 teach the training sessions, along with staff from Appalachian State University and North Carolina Cooperative Extension. USDA agencies and experienced crop and livestock producers will provide additional instruction.

“We’re eager to bring Armed to Farm to North Carolina,” said NCAT Armed to Farm Program Director Margo Hale. “Armed to Farm has served more than 800 veterans in all corners of 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.

“The High Country of North Carolina is a beautiful farming community with great partnerships among the university, cooperative extension, local farmers and nonprofit organizations,” said Dr. Anne Fanatico, Co-Director of Frontline to Farm. “Together we build community for resilience in food systems.”

This training is for military veterans in the Southeast. 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 June 10. NCAT will notify selected participants by June 17.

Armed to Farm North Carolina is supported by BFRDP grant 2020-49400-32401 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture. 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.

THE NATIONAL CENTER FOR APPROPRIATE TECHNOLOGY has been helping people build resilient communities through local and sustainable solutions that reduce poverty, strengthen self-reliance, and protect natural resources since 1976. Headquartered in Butte, Montana, NCAT has field offices in Arkansas, California, Colorado, Idaho, Kentucky, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Texas. Learn more and become a friend of NCAT at NCAT.ORG

FRONTLINE TO FARM, a program sponsored by Appalachian State University’s Goodnight Family Department of Sustainable Development and Department of Communication, helps military veterans and beginning farmers get started in sustainable farming as a livelihood. We support practices that raise healthy food, mitigate climate change and build community, while providing support and reconnection for those who have served. The work of Frontline to Farm is supported by our flagship project Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program 2020-49400-32401 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Learn more at frontlinetofarm.appstate.edu.

After two years of delays due to COVID-19, NCAT finally hosted an Armed to Farm training in the Southwest. At the end of March, we hosted 27 veterans and their spouses or family farm partners in Albuquerque, New Mexico, for a week of training. As the Director of Armed to Farm, I have had the joy of participating in the majority of our 27 in-person Armed to Farm trainings. Each time, it is a delight to meet farmer veterans who are eager to expand their farm and ranch operations and connect them to the many resources and networks that are available to support them.

The National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) is bringing its free Armed to Farm training back to the Hill Country, after hosting a 2015 training in Castroville, Texas. Armed to Farm will take place May 16-20, 2022, in Fredericksburg. Farmer-veterans will attend classroom sessions and travel to local farms for hands-on learning experiences. The deadline to apply is Friday, April 8.

Armed to Farm trainings include an engaging blend of farm tours, hands-on activities, and interactive classroom instruction. NCAT Sustainable Agriculture specialists will teach 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 Lone Star State,” said Armed to Farm Program Director Margo Hale. “Armed to Farm has served more than 800 veterans in all corners of 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.

“The education that I received has been invaluable for the launching and development of our family farm, Mind Your Garden Urban Farm,” said Armed to Farm alumnus Steven Nuñez, who farms with his family in Fort Worth. “The NCAT staff were truly knowledgeable and always willing to help and answer questions. The three most helpful takeaways for me were learning of the many resources available for veterans interested in a career in agriculture, the importance of diversifying income streams for the farm operation, and most importantly, understanding how crucial it is to cultivate a new generation of farmers to carry on the service to our country that our aging farmers have provided for decades.”

This training is for military veterans in Southwest. 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 April 8. NCAT will notify selected participants by April 15.

Armed to Farm Texas is supported by funding from the United States Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation 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.

The National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) is bringing its free Armed to Farm training to southern California for the first time, after hosting a 2018 training in Davis, Calif. Armed to Farm will take place April 18-22, 2022, in San Diego. West Coast farmer-veterans will attend classroom sessions and travel to local farms for 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 teach 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 Golden State,” said NCAT Southeast Regional and Armed to Farm Program Director Margo Hale. “Armed to Farm has served more than 800 veterans in all corners of 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.

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

Click HERE to apply by March 4. NCAT will notify selected participants by March 11.

Armed to Farm California is supported by funding from the United States Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture AgVets program. Successful applications 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.

Tammi and Stephen attended the Armed to Farm held in Fayetteville, Arkansas, in 2018. They operate a diversified small farm in Pryor, Oklahoma. Tammi recently sent us an update on their farm: 

“Sometimes it seems that we haven’t made much progress, but as we reviewed how much we have grown and learned since ATF it has been an amazing journey. The local community now looks to us (mostly Stephen), because they recognize the quality of our drug- and chemical-free all on-pasture raised animals.” 

The Bells recently added to their farm by purchasing an additional 18.5 acres of land.  

“The property across the street is a 12-year unmanaged wood lot, on a slope,” Tammy writes. “Very undesirable to most folks. We plan to harvest wood for biochar and mulch the overgrowth, to create a silvopasture where the goats and sheep can graze in their favorite natural environment. We plan to have a have a lake view agritourist/wedding venue/you-pick, demonstration farm/ranch!!!” 

The Bells are keeping busy in other ways as well.  

“Stephen is in the Agroforestry MS program at Missouri University. I completed the OSU Master Gardener Course last year. We received a grant from the Oklahoma State Department of Forestry in 2019 for riparian buffers for our shoreline, windbreakers, and to restore native wildlife habitat.  

We enjoy making videos of life on the farm. Waterline Farm on Facebook and YouTube.” 

Have you attended an Armed to Farm? We’d love to know what you’ve been up to since then! Email your updates to robynm@ncat.org