SYRACUSE, N.Y. — State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball today encouraged veterans interested in careers in agriculture to participate in the 2017 New York State Veterans in Agriculture Conference on Wednesday, November 29, 2017. This second annual event provides targeted technical training and professional development sessions for veterans and service providers, as well as an opportunity for veterans to network and obtain information on resources available across various agencies. The conference will also celebrate the formation and official launch of the NY Farmer Veteran Coalition.
The conference is hosted by the Cornell Small Farms Program and the New York Farmer Veteran Coalition and co-sponsored by the Department and other partners, including the NY Farm Bureau. The event will be held from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Arts & Home Center at the New York State Fairgrounds in Syracuse. Entry is $25. Interested participants can register here until November 15, 2017. For more information, please visit http://smallfarms.cornell.edu/projects/farm-ops/veterans-in-agriculture/.
Commissioner Ball said, “This conference is a great opportunity to provide our veterans who may be thinking of a second career in agriculture valuable information and connect them with other veterans and our service providers. We look forward to supporting our service men and women in their new venture in the State’s growing agricultural industry to ensure a strong agricultural workforce while supporting the next generation of farming in New York.”
Dr. Anu Rangarajan, Director of the Cornell Small Farms and Farm Ops program, said, “Our veterans deserve access to every resource that Cornell, the USDA, VA, and NYS agencies have to offer. We hope that through this conference, and our other efforts, we can help connect veterans to those resources, each other, and to the many community-based efforts across our state.”
John Lemondes, the New York Farmer Veteran Coalition Board Chairman said, “We’re pleased to roll out our NYS chapter which builds on a decade of support for veterans transitioning into agricultural careers. By growing the Homegrown By Heroes label, chapter activities, and advocacy work of the Farmer Veteran Coalition national organization right here in New York, we aim to help our farmer veterans achieve their post-service goals. Please join us in celebrating all our NY Farmer Veterans!”
Veterans in Agriculture Programs
The State is also supporting military veterans interested in careers in the agricultural industry through several new and ongoing programs this year. In October, Empire State Development, in coordination with the NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets, announced the new New York State Veterans Farmer Grant Fund to assist the growth and development of farms owned and operated by military veterans.
The $250,000 grant program will provide grants of up to $50,000 to awardees. Empire State Development, in consultation with the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, administers the grant funds. The applications and guidelines for the Veterans Farm Grant Fund are available online. The deadline for submission is January 26, 2018.
In addition, Governor Cuomo first announced the launch of an on-the-job training program for veterans in 2016. The program expanded the New York State Division of Veterans’ Affairs’ (DVA) On-the-Job Training initiative to allow veterans to use their military benefits while obtaining useful job skills on the farm. With assistance from Cornell Small Farms Program, Western New York’s Kreher’s Farm in Clarence was approved as the first farm in the state to offer this program to veterans.
Since then, two additional farms have joined the program. The Reeves Family Farm in Baldwinsville, Onondaga County is now participating, and Mapleview Dairy in Madrid, St. Lawrence County, has become the first dairy farm certified for the on-the-job training program. These positions can be found on NYS Job Bank and at these specific links: Kreher’s Poultry Farm; Mapleview Dairy (link coming soon) and; Reeves Family Farm.
Additional farms across the state are encouraged to apply to participate. Learn more about the program and how to participate here. Farmers interested in offering on-the-job training are encouraged to contact Cornell education support specialist Dean Koyanagi at firstname.lastname@example.org or 607-255-9911.
“The future of New York’s agriculture industry depends on attracting new people to the profession,” said Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Senator Patty Ritchie. “This conference can connect those who have given so much to our country with rewarding, post-service careers. Matching our veterans, and the skills they possess, with these events and other programs designed to help them get involved in agriculture, are critical to growing—and protecting—the future of New York’s leading industry.”
David Fisher, NY Farm Bureau President, said, “New York Farm Bureau is excited to work with our agricultural partners as the New York Farmer Veteran Coalition is launched to support American servicemen and women who are interested in careers on the farm. There are many opportunities for them to put their valuable skills to work in agriculture, and we are happy to be a part of this outreach effort that looks to give back to those who have already given so much for their country. My family’s farm, Mapleview Dairy, is participating in the DVA’s On-the-Job Training Initiative as well, and we believe it will be a win-win for the farm and veteran alike.”
Director of the New York State Division of Veterans’ Affairs Eric J. Hesse said, “New York has a proud agricultural history and Veterans from past to present have returned to support their communities through farming. Governor Cuomo’s On-the-Job Training Initiative helps to ensure that this proud tradition continues on in New York. The Division supports these efforts by continuing to pursue farms for approval to offer on-the-job training. This allows Veterans and other eligible persons to utilize their VA education benefits, including the Post-9/11 GI Bill, while learning a trade or skill through on-the-job-training participation rather than attending formal classroom instruction.”
The New York State Beginning Farmers Workgroup, established by Governor Cuomo in 2014, identified the need for an on-the-job training program for veterans who want to pursue careers in farming and agriculture. The Workgroup’s discussions led the Farm Ops initiative of the Cornell Small Farms Program to work with the DVA to expand its existing On-the-Job Training (OJT) program to include New York farms. Prior to this, OJT was utilized almost exclusively by electricians, plumbers, and other skilled trades. The program offers veterans rewarding career opportunities as they transition out of military service, while also providing employers with qualified workers. During their training, veterans are paid wages and also receive their Military Housing Allowance through their GI Bill benefits, which helps offset the cost of living.
About the NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets
The Department, through its various divisions and programs, promotes New York agriculture and its high-quality and diverse products, fosters agricultural environmental stewardship, and safeguards the State’s food supply, land, plants and livestock to ensure the viability and growth of New York’s agriculture industries.
The Department operates the Great New York State Fair, and administers the Taste NY initiative, the FreshConnect and New York State Grown & Certified programs. Follow the Department on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
—NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets
For more articles out of New York, click here.