W.Va. launches new farming assistance program for vets

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W.Va. launches new farming assistance program for vets
A new agricultural program has been launched to help veterans engaging in agriculture. (Photo: Gregory Hayes)

The West Virginia Department of Agriculture has launched a new agricultural training series for veterans in West Virginia, according to state Commissioner of Agriculture Kent Leonhardt.

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The Veteran Education Training Series, also known as VETS, will host its first session “Boots-to-Business” at the West Virginia Small Farm Conference on February 20, though more classes will be hosted around the state covering topics such as beekeeping, mushroom production, and high-tunnel management.

“Every economist recognizes the growing age gap in our trade industries as few people pursue careers in welding or agriculture," Leonhardt said.

"To combat this, we must put more emphasis on vocational education. “VETS hopes to connect the next generation of farmers with the training they need.”

The goal of VETS is to make agriculture training accessible to veterans who are new and beginning farmers, hobbyists, and budding professionals by offering introductory courses in flexible, abbreviated segments, Leonhardt said.

Courses will be taught by industry experts and will include a mix of classroom and hands-on activities as well as farm tours. Certificates will be awarded for each full course completed and may be recognized for college credit.

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Dane Gaiser, the coordinator of the department's Veterans-and-Warriors-to-Agriculture initiative, says he thinks the new program will be particularly helpful where networking is concerned.

“One benefit from this training series is an opportunity to connect veterans, farmers, and industry experts,” Gaiser said.

“The department has found a lot of success when we are able to link entrepreneurs to one another who can then collaborate on projects. Networking also provides an opportunity for mentorship and the passing of knowledge.”

All courses will be free of charge for veterans.

To register for the West Virginia Small Farms Conference or the Boots-to-Business course, contact Dane Gaiser at 304-558-2210 or vetstoag@wvda.us.

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