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Homegrown By Heroes

05/16/2014 @ 10:39am

These veterans have served their country twice – once by defending it and now by feeding it. Now there is an easy way for you to support these hardworking, deserving farmer veterans: the Homegrown By Heroes program.

This labeling program will allow farmers and ranchers who have served or are serving in the U.S. military to use the logo on their ag products. Consumers and businesses purchasing ag products will begin to see this logo at the point-of-purchase and on business signage, enabling them to select products that support our country’s farmer veterans.

National scale
Originally created in Kentucky by the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, the Farmer Veteran Coalition (FVC) is now administering the Homegrown By Heroes program nationwide thanks to funding by Farm Credit.

“From the beginning of the Homegrown By Heroes program, we hoped that it would grow to a national scale so it could benefit veterans from every state,” says James Comer, Kentucky agricultural commissioner. “Now, that hope has become a reality with the help of the Farmer Veteran Coalition and our other generous partners. With this initiative, we can give something back to those who have given so much in defense of our country.”

Commitment to service
Only 16% of America’s population lives in rural areas, yet 40% of the men and women who serve in the military come from rural communities. The FVC recognizes the commitment of rural Americans to military service. Veterans possess the unique skills and character needed to strengthen rural communities, and food production offers purpose, opportunity, and physical and psychological benefits to veterans. At a time when post-9/11 veterans are experiencing a 9% unemployment rate (compared to the national average of 6.3%), ag can be a meaningful solution for veterans returning home. The Homegrown By Heroes label will allow consumers to thank veterans for their service by purchasing their farm products.

Mark and Denise Beyers are the first certified Homegrown By Heroes producers outside of Kentucky. The high school sweethearts entered the Marine Corps in 1998 and 1999, respectively. While serving in Iraq in 2005, Mark’s team hit an improvised explosive device (IED), resulting in combat injuries that led to the loss of his right arm and right leg. Upon returning from service overseas, Mark and Denise built a thriving maple syrup business on their 15-acre property in upstate New York. The couple will use the Homegrown By Heroes label to help sell the maple syrup they produce on their farm as well as eggs and vegetables.

“By supporting this label, we can help the veterans who are serving our country in a new way – by producing the food and fiber that feeds and clothes us all,” says Michael O’Gorman, executive director of the FVC. “At the same time, we’re helping thousands of young veterans find a new calling in a farming community whose average age is 58 years.”

How to apply
To qualify for the Homegrown By Heroes label, you must have served or still be serving in any branch of the U.S. Armed Forces and be at least 50% owner and/or operator of the farm business. Veterans of all eras are encouraged to apply. FVC staff assists applicants in developing food safety plans and, if needed, business plans. FVC is now accepting and processing Homegrown By Heroes applications.

Farm Credit supported the national launch of the label with a donation of $250,000. The American Farm Bureau Federation, the National Farmers Union, and a wide array of other farm organizations also support the initiative.

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