BOONE – Earlier this fall, Appalachian State University’s Department of Sustainable Development received a three-year, United States Department of Agriculture grant that will benefit veterans looking to become farmers.
The grant, which is worth $599,684, is intended to help veterans from all walks of life transition into the civilian world through sustainable agriculture. The program will utilize a combination of web-based training modules, hands-on in the field workshops as well as mentoring programs that connect participants with farmers already using sustainable practices.
The Department of Sustainable Development is calling the program Frontline to Farm, and is working closely with Appalachian State’s Military Affairs Committee, that is providing key insights into military culture. According to Lynn Gregory, chair of the MAC, these insights will be necessary when it comes to developing training for vets who are making the transition from active duty to civilian life.
“Understanding the way that we can build training that mimics the training military service members are used to means that we’re going to have a familiar foundation to learn from,” Gregory said. “They’re not going to learn the same way as a college student might. So sticking them in a classroom and giving them some textbooks is not going to be the way that we design training. Those insights are important.”
Receiving the grant was the work of Anne Fanatico, who is an associate professor in Appalachian State’s Department of Sustainable Development. Fanatico has worked for six years on similar sustainable agriculture programs in Arkansas, which according to her have seen great success.
“Their’s have gone well, they’ve been successful. We wanted to expand that to North Carolina,” said Fanatico. “North Carolina is a military friendly state. We also have a lot of agriculture and a lot of diversified agriculture.”
The new project will focus on sustainable swine production and agricultural techniques such as woodlot farm production. Money from the grant will go toward the creation of online resource materials and internet training modules focused on swine. Though the program will offer some classroom instruction and plenty of online resources, the bulk of the training will be hands-on.
“The most exciting thing is hands on learning and training, things that you can’t get from the internet and we have the perfect place to do that,” Fanatico said.
The hands-on elements of the program will take place at the Sustainable Development Department’s research farm, known as the SD Farm, in Fleetwood. The farm features 35 acres of pasture and 150 acres of woodlot. “Frontline to Farm” will also feature a mentor program that allows veterans interested in sustainable farming to connect with veterans already established in the industry. The mentorship element of the program not only trains participants on farming techniques, but also offers them a web of support through networking.
“A lot of veterans also learn well in groups or in relationships, particularly with other farmers or veterans who have become farmers. We do have a wonderful example here in the High Country in Cory Bryk of New Life Farm,” Fanatico said. “He has been involved in this project too for six years with the projects that started in Arkansas. He’s proven to be a great mentor to veterans that want to check out farming.”
Frontline to Farm is also utilizing student-based organizations such as Second Story Media, a student run communications agency based at Appalachian State, to promote their digital outreach. Second Story Media is responsible for creating the Frontline to Farm’s name and logo, and is currently working to create a website promoting the new veteran farm program.
“To me, it’s an important social justice. Veterans have sacrificed so much and I think it’s important to give back to them,” Fanatico said regarding the upcoming program.
Individuals interested in the Department of Sustainable Development’s Farm to Frontline program can contact Fanatico at (828) 262-6813. Individuals looking to contact Appalachian State’s Military Affairs Committee can contact Gregory at (828) 262-2218.