The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service is working to help military veterans as they adjust to civilian life through its Texas AgrAbility program, aimed at educating and assisting those interested in learning more about farming and ranching.
Officials said the program’s Battleground to Breaking Ground Entrepreneurial Training Project has been developed to equip veterans with the skills and knowledge they need through a mixture of hands-on, face-to-face and online training, while also facilitating financial, disability-specific and other resources.
AgriLife Extension State Specialist Rick Peterson said in 2016 the Texas AgrAbility program was the recipient of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s “New and Beginning Farmer Rancher Development Program” grant, designed to help organizations educate, mentor and provide technical assistance to farmers and ranchers who are just starting out — leading to the creation of the Battle Ground to Breaking Ground project.
Along with the grant, he said the project will be receiving assistance from several partners including the Farmers Assisting Returning Military program, the Texas Center for Rural Entrepreneurship, the Farmer Veteran Coalition, Millican Alliance, the Texas Department of Agriculture and more.
Peterson said participants will learn in sustainable ways through an “innovative, holistic model for education, training, technical assistance and outreach” that includes farm, ranch and business plan assessments, connection to a network of other farmers and ranchers, as well as access to the project’s education and resources.
In addition to providing the necessary knowledge, the project also is expected to have a specific focus on helping disabled veterans to succeed.
Cheryl Grenwelge, a disability transition specialist with AgriLife Extension, cited statistics showing “from 45 to 50 percent of those who complete their service in the military have some physical or other disability tied to that service” and said nearly half are located in rural areas with limited access to resources.
By providing easier access to educational resources, providing guidance on additional assistance agencies and seeking to connect them with mentors who may have similar experiences, Grenwelge said the program hopes to make the process of beginning a new agriculture operation easier on interested veterans.
The project is set to launch in College Station on April 28 and in Dallas on June 23.