From Corps to Crops

By John Carberry

Wheat Field
Photo: Robyn Wishna

The Northeast Beginning Farmers Project is taking on a new mission designed in part to help returning veterans find futures in farming, thanks to a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The Northeast Beginning Farmers Project, part of the Cornell Small Farms Program, was awarded $712,500 through the National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program. The money will be used to create community-based training programs and farmer-to-farmer networks to support what organizers call two underserved groups—military veterans and “advanced beginners” who have been farming from four to seven years.

“Supporting new farmers is core to the mission of the Cornell Small Farm Program and our numerous partners,” said Anusuya Rangarajan, a senior extension associate in Plant Science and director of the Small Farms Program. “This USDA investment will allow us to build new pathways for veterans entering agriculture and for entrepreneurs growing their farming businesses.”

Rangarajan said the federal funds—to be supported by another $218,000 from the Local Economies Project of the New World Foundation and $100,000 from the New York Farm Viability Institute—will be used to create new communications tools and educational strategies to attract and keep military veterans in farming. She and her team plan to create a permanent, statewide network linking veterans and their service providers to agricultural support resources. The program’s organizers also hope to develop and demonstrate new educational approaches to get veterans interested in farming.

“On behalf of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, we commend the collaborative work that will continue to make these crucial efforts successful, and we are grateful for the USDA’s support of this key program,” said Kathryn J. Boor, the Ronald P. Lynch Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. “This initiative reflects our Land-Grant Mission, and its outcomes speak to our delivery of knowledge with public purpose. We are honored to play a part in serving those who have served our country.”