A MESSAGE FROM WEST VIRGINIA DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS ASSISTANCE SECRETARY THOMPSON
Veterans and Warriors to Agriculture Program Growing in West Virginia
CHARLESTON, W.Va. – During his State of the State address this January, Governor Tomblin highlighted the West Virginia’s Veterans and Warriors to Agriculture program. This partnership between the West Virginia Department of Agriculture and the West Virginia Department of Veterans Assistance (WVDVA) is giving our service men and women the training opportunities they need to succeed when they return home from serving our country. Specifically designed to assist veterans interested in farming, the program offers a number of training and support opportunities as well as resources to connect these veterans and their products with local retailers.
Currently, participants receive mentorship with their farming endeavors as well as assistance with applying for state and federal grants. They are given access to a variety of publications that offer advice and guidance on everything from home vegetable gardens to orchards and herbal farming. Even individuals who do not own their own land can participate, as the program makes state-owned properties available for lease at reduced rates. Classes are offered in farming berries, fruit trees, vegetables and herbs, as well as in bee-keeping.
The bee-keeping classes have been especially popular and the benefits of increasing West Virginia’s honeybee population reach beyond the veteran farmers themselves. Bees play an essential role in pollinating and fertilizing numerous crops, so their presence can help other parts of a farm to thrive. Consuming locally harvested honey is thought to have medicinal value as well and, of course, consumers have the satisfaction of knowing their honey purchase supports a West Virginia producer.
We are excited about this program because it is helping our veterans supplement their income through small business ownership and it’s growing the agri-business industry in West Virginia. Veterans also are finding therapeutic value in working the land and being part of a community of veteran farmers, and we are equally excited about this benefit of the program.
Veterans and Warriors to Agriculture is a shining example of what we can accomplish by working across agency lines to benefit those who have served our country. My hope is that the program’s success will inspire other government bodies, businesses and organizations to consider ways they can give back to our veteran community.
Those who are interested in learning more about Warriors to Agriculture should visit www.wvagriculture.org or contact us at 1-800-WV4-VETS.
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