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Pennsylvania Ag News Headlines
Friends of Ag Foundation, Veteran Farming Project Promote Opportunities
Pennsylvania Ag Connection - 10/16/2019

The Pennsylvania Friends of Agriculture Foundation has been selected to facilitate a three-year grant program designed to promote agriculture enterprise development, expansion and sustainability for military veterans and their families. The foundation will partner with the PA Veteran Farming Project to engage and empower beginning and future farmers who are veterans to build profitable agribusinesses in the Commonwealth.

"The foundation is providing the administrative support that makes this grant possible, while the educational portion of the grant will be led by the PA Veteran Farming Project," said Pennsylvania Friends of Agriculture Foundation executive director Charlene Shupp Espenshade.

The foundation, through its role as the charitable organization of the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau (PFB), will also provide additional resources to assist veteran farmers with business and accounting questions.

"The Friends of Agriculture Foundation is perfectly positioned to partner with us on this project because of its three decades of success educating the public about agriculture in Pennsylvania," said Mimi Thomas-Brooker, who is director of the PA Veteran Farming Project. "Many Pennsylvania farmers have served in the military, whether or not they self-identify as veteran farmers, so working with the foundation and PFB, will exponentially improve our outreach efforts."

The funding comes from USDA's Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program, which is managed by USDA's Office of Partnerships and Public Engagement (OPPE).

"This grant award is historic in that it is the first USDA OPPE award for a 'home-grown' veteran farming network founded and based in Pennsylvania," added Thomas-Brooker, whose group is composed entirely of veterans and members of the military community and their spouses, who live and work in Pennsylvania. "The funding will allow us to expand on the effort launched six years ago to grow a mutually supportive veteran farming community by convening in-person educational and networking events."

Specifically, the program will raise awareness and understanding of USDA and other federal, state, and local resources and programming; improve access to technical assistance available locally and regionally; and empower participants to use financial resources such as grants, loans, and cost-share programs.

The project will host annual statewide Veteran Farming Summits, five workshops in each of the three years of the program and create a veteran-to-veteran mentoring program. Overall, the project aspires to reach a minimum of 300 eligible veterans, resulting in at least 24 new farms.

For more information, contact Charlene Shupp Espenshade of the Pennsylvania Friends of Agriculture Foundation at 717.761.2740 or cmespenshade@pfb.com and Mimi Thomas-Brooker at 724.691.1087 or pavetsfarm@gmail.com.

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