The Farmer Veteran Fellowship Fund is a small grant program that helps veterans in their early years of farming and ranching with the purchase of a piece of critical equipment. In 10 years, the Fellowship Fund has funded more than 600 veterans with $3 million in equipment.
A new grant cycle is underway for 2021 funding. An application for the Farmer Veteran Fellowship Fund must be filled out and submitted by Feb. 14, 2021.
Application submissions are reviewed by an advisory committee of agricultural industry professionals. Awards will be granted in the spring. Common equipment requests include All-Terrain Vehicles (ATV), breeding livestock, fencing, and tractor implements.
This year, funding for the grants is coming from several partner organizations – Kubota Tractor Corporation, Tractor Supply Company, Wounded Warrior Project, Tarter USA, Homestead Implements, and Vital Farms.
Farmer Veteran Coalition member Eric Grandon – who previously received a grant himself – is also giving back to the community that has supported his own agricultural journey by donating beekeeping equipment. “I now know what bees can do for anyone with any condition or problem,” the West Virginia beekeeper reveals. “As long as I continue the success of Sugar Bottom Farm, FVC will always be at the top of my list just because I was at the top of [theirs].”
“The Fellowship Fund is one of the most successful ways we help farmer veterans with their agricultural endeavors,” said Farmer Veteran Coalition Executive Director Jeanette Lombardo.
Finding start-up capital is one of the biggest challenges facing beginning farmers, said Michael O'Gorman, who founded the Farmer Veteran Coalition.
“These farmer veterans are selfless and service-minded,” O’Gorman said. “They ask for very little, so we have to tell our community what the veterans need us to do for them.”
Ben Martin of Forest Grove, Oregon, is one of those who benefited from the small grant program. Martin served in the Marine Corps and after returning home from war, he pursued a career in winemaking.
Back in 2015, FVC awarded Martin the supplies needed to bottle his first vintage of wine.
“We were just starting out making wine in the back of a horse barn,” Martin said. “We had no sales, no exposure. And we needed to bottle the vintage of wine. But we had no bottles, corks, or labels. FVC stepped in and gave us a grant for the supplies.
If it weren’t for FVC we wouldn’t have…well actually, I don’t know what we would have done, honestly.”
The Farmer Veteran Coalition is a national non-profit that serves nearly 25,000 veterans turned farmers. Through education and resources, FVC helps veterans with their own farming operation or with finding employment in related agricultural professions.