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June 05, 2015
Farm Credit of the Virginias is a cooperative that supports rural communities and agriculture with reliable, consistent credit and financial services, actively supports local military veterans who are farming and ranching. From an event on Capitol Hill highlighting the contributions of farmer veterans, to partnership with the Farmer Veteran Coalition’s Homegrown by Heroes , Farm Credit celebrates and recognizes opportunities for local veterans in rural America.
“Farm Credit’s support of farmer veterans goes beyond providing financial assistance,” said Charlie Leech, customer-owner and board member. “By providing tools and resources, increasing community awareness, investing in programs and promoting events, we aim to give back to veterans and help them succeed.”
Nationally, Farm Credit hosted an event on Capitol Hill on June 2 to showcase the contributions of farmer veterans and celebrate the success of the Homegrown by Heroes program. The event was presented by Farm Credit in collaboration with the House Agriculture Committee Chairman K. Michael Conaway (R–TX–11) and Ranking Member Collin C. Peterson (D–MN–7).
The event featured an array of products produced by farmer veterans from across the country, highlighted by a signature kale, ham and onion grilled cheese sandwich by Calvin Riggleman of Hampshire County, WV a veteran, chef, farmer and the first producer in West Virginia to use the Homegrown By Heroes label. “As the first producer in West Virginia to use the Homegrown by Heroes label, I know first-hand how valuable this program is to my success,” said Riggleman. “I’ve been able to take my business to the next level with valuable advice that has helped strengthen my business, my numbers and my growth plan. I first envisioned my plans while I was in the Marine Corps in Iraq, advising my parents about planting, harvesting and selling from overseas. Since my return, I’ve worked with Farm Credit of the Virginias to expand my fruit operation to include a distillery. The support of Farm Credit and the Farmer Veteran Coalition has been a life-changer for me.”
The Farmer Veteran Coalition recognizes the commitment of rural Americans to military service with the goal of developing viable employment and meaningful careers through the collaboration of the farming and military communities. Homegrown by Heroes is a product labeling program that identifies, promotes and supports agricultural products grown and raised by U.S. veterans and those still serving in any branch of the U.S. military. This program was launched nationally by the Farmer Veteran Coalition in 2014 with funding from Farm Credit. In the last year, the program has grown to include more than 165 farmers and ranchers across 43 states comprising $15 million in annual sales, with membership nearly doubling in the last three months.
“We owe our veterans a debt that we can never repay,” said Chairman Conaway. “When we purchase products with the Homegrown by Heroes label, we are able to at least show our appreciation for the enormous sacrifices that they have made.”
Veterans possess the unique skills and character needed to strengthen rural communities, and food production offers purpose, opportunity, and physical and psychological benefits to those veterans. At a time when Post-9/11 veterans are experiencing a 7.2 percent unemployment rate (compared to the national average of 5.4 percent), agriculture can be a meaningful solution for veterans returning home and looking to provide for their families.
Farm Credit of the Virginias recognizes that veterans are vital to the success of rural communities, and also supports local, regional, state and nation initiatives.
About The Farmer Veteran Coalition
The Farmer Veteran Coalition serves military veterans of all eras and branches, though a majority of its veterans are from the most recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, interested in the agriculture industry. It works with veterans, their families, employers and mentors to support those returning to or beginning careers in food and farming.
About Farm Credit of the Virginias
Farm Credit of the Virginias provides over $1.5 billion dollars in financing to more than 10,000 farmers, agribusinesses and rural homeowners throughout Virginia, West Virginia and western Maryland. Farm Credit is a cooperative capitalized largely through investments made by farmers, ranchers and the rural homeowners and businesses that borrow from them. Farm Credit helps maintain and improve the quality of life in rural America and on the farm through its constant commitment to competitive lending, expert financial services and for facilitating and sharing knowledge and resources through the Farm Credit Knowledge Center. For more information, visit www.FarmCreditKnowledgeCenter.com or www.FarmCreditofVirginias.com.
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