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Farm Training Program Targets Veterans

Sterling College
Sterling College/Flickr
Sterling College

An agricultural training program targeting veterans will be held for the first time in Vermont this summer.  As WAMC’s North Country Bureau Chief Pat Bradley reports, the application deadline is in a week and a half.
Sterling College in Craftsbury Common, Vermont will host up to 30 veterans in June for a free week-long training on sustainable small scale farming practices.   
The Armed to Farm training is a national program coordinated by the National Center for Appropriate Technology or NCAT.  Director Margo Hale says the organization has been providing technical assistance to farmers for over 30 years. About eight years ago a staff member who was an Iraqi veteran and beginning farmer suggested creating an agricultural training program for military veterans.  “Veterans tell me over and over and over they’re drawn to farming for lots of reasons. One is they can be their own boss. There is definitely therapeutic elements about working outside, working in the soil growing things. It’s a life building activity and so it has those healing aspects. And I find that veterans make really good farmers because they’re not easily deterred when things go wrong and in farming things always go wrong!  They’re used to hard physical labor and so they have some skills that definitely translate to being really good farmers.”

NCAT Northeast Regional Director Andy Pressman says it’s a mixture of classroom and hands on experience with formal classes to teach the business aspect of farming and time on local farms.  “The Vermont Arm to Farm program in June is actually open to veterans all throughout the Northeast. So you just don’t have to be in Vermont. That being said we do have sort of a set curriculum that each of our trainings are rooted in and that is along the lines of business and whole farm planning. So we do have sort of the business side of things as well as standard one day on crop production, one day on maybe pasture management or grazing. Pasture poultry’s always a big hit. But then we also look at each of the accepted applicants and look at what their needs and interests are as well and sort of tailor the training to those as well.”

The first training in Vermont will be held at Sterling College from June 10th to the 14th.   Sustainable Agriculture Draft Animal Educator and Armed to Farm coordinator Rick Thomas says the college has been committed to breaking down barriers to higher education for veterans. He says the program meets their sustainability mission and connects with partner farms in the region.  “There’ll be multiple opportunities for the college farm to intersect with the program. We have some amazing practitioners in the area who are doing some farm work that is so well aligned with the Armed to Farm curriculum that we want to make sure that we’re getting out onto those farms. And then what I’m going to do is host a series of I guess I’ll call them mini-workshops which will bring those interested onto the Sterling College farm to do some things that they’re not going to have access to in the community such as working with draft animals.”
Applications are due May 3rd.