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Veteran Farmer Program

THE CHALLENGE

The average American farmer is 58 – even older in Virginia – and is nearing retirement. The USDA estimates the nation needs 700,000 new farmers to replace them over the next decade.

Hundreds of thousands of American veterans, including those who volunteered for the military after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, are separating from the service every year and seeking meaningful careers in the civilian sector.
 

THE OPPORTUNITY

Americans are increasingly purchasing local and organic food – the market share grew more than 10 fold in the last decade, despite a major recession.

Veterans are 45 percent more likely to start their own businesses than other Americans. And they have the physical and mental toughness to forge successful careers in agriculture. Years of service have honed their ability to lead; to work independently or as part of a team; to plan, adapt, and overcome crises; and to accomplish whatever mission is before them.
 

THE SOLUTION

Pay veterans to learn how to farm. Help them find affordable land. Provide easy market access for the food they produce to satisfy the robust and growing public demand. And reinvigorate the farm sector with skilled new growers, eager to begin their next phase of life.

Arcadia’s Veteran Farmer Program is a multilayered, hands-on educational program that develops new farmers; capitalizes on the growing market in local, sustainably grown foods; and encourages entrepreneurship and job creation.

The Veteran Farmer Program has three components:

VETERAN FARMER RESERVE PROGRAM

VETERAN FARM FELLOWSHIP PROGRAM

VETERAN FARM INCUBATOR
 

VETERAN FARMER RESERVE PROGRAM

The Veteran Farmer Reserve Program is for those interested in exploring agriculture without committing to a full-time training program. This 12-month program meets one weekend a month, with an additional service learning commitment of 40 hours of hands-on farm work at Arcadia during the training year. Reserve Farmers receive hands-on training at Arcadia’s farm in Alexandria, VA; visit working livestock, greenhouse, organic, and other farms on field trips; and receive classroom instruction on topics ranging from pest control to marketing and farm business planning. Reserve Farmers also complete independent reading, research, and writing assignments. Arcadia Farm Staff instruction is supplemented by professional farmers and extension agents and supported by staff with our project partners. 

The Veteran Farmer Reserve Program is a fee based program with needs-based scholarships offered to qualified veterans.

2023 Reserve Class: January 2023 to December 2023

Anticipated 2023 Reserve Program Training Dates (please be available for both days, every weekend):
1/28-29; 2/25-26; 3/25-26; 4/29-30; 5/20-21; 6/17-18 or 6/24-25 (tractor training); 7/29-30; 8/26-27; 9/23-24; 10/28-29; 11/18-19; 
12/16-17

Tuition: $500 – fee includes breakfast and lunch during monthly training weekends. Full and Partial Scholarships available. Please do not let the cost prevent you from apllying.  

Application: Application deadline is December 31 for the Reserve Program. The application is online, and can be found HERE: https://forms.gle/4BB4m4Z6hxtsNg7C7
Reliable transportation required.

 

VETERAN FARM FELLOWSHIP PROGRAM

Learn and explore farming through a flexible, paid experience.

Arcadia offers an immersive training opportunity to learn regenerative, bio-intensive farming. As a fellow you’ll be learning through on-the-job training, i.e. learning by doing. Arcadia Food Farm cultivates 2.5 acres of vegetable production, 0.5 acre of fruit and berry production, and 1 acre of incubator space…and we do it all off-grid.

Here is some of what we offer:

  • Part-time and full-time positions. We recommend 24 to 32 hours on-farm a week (3 or 4 days) plus occasional weekend responsibilities. 
  • Pay. We pay $15 an hour, offer optional health benefits, and access to vegetables from the farm. You can also access your GI bill base housing allowance if you qualify for the VA’s OJT (work a minimum of 120 hours per month for a minimum of six months); Arcadia will facilitate that payment.
  • Program options. Spring, summer, fall, or full-season (each season is approximately 3 months) with potential 2nd year fellowship to build on your first year experience.
  • Education. Engage with farm, health, and business topics. In addition to on-site training, we offer optional online programming and local farm visits through our Farmer Reserve Program.

Our program’s focus is flexibility in building this opportunity with you. Transitioning into farming is more than physical work, it’s a connection to the land and the community around you. There will be many things we have to do but there will also be built-in time to pursue supplemental training opportunities and to practice self-care. Maybe you want to sustainably commute to the farm, schedule doctor’s appointments, see family, take mental health days, visit a farm you know, complete an on-farm project, and more. We’ll check-in throughout your fellowship on your goals and make adjustments along the way.

We built this program to be flexible…but also to have specific, on-the-job training content. Here’s a few of the training opportunities you’ll experience (season dependent)):

  • Vegetable farm production. Planning, seeding, irrigating, harvesting, cultivating, etc.
  • Soil care. Cover cropping, no-tillage/low-till, no pesticides, fertility management.
  • Greenhouse and high tunnel operations.
  • Food and nutrition education. Gut health, plant i.d., fermentation, curing/storage.
  • Market experience. Selling produce, meat, etc.
  • Working with regional farmers.
  • Capstone project (optional). Design and complete an on-farm project.
  • Farm maintenance. Tractors, vehicles, infrastructure, tools, etc.
  • Record keeping. Food safety, harvest and distribution, seeding, maintenance, etc.
  • Broiler chickens. Care from chick to full-bird.

Why farm with us?

Well, we’re passionate about stewarding healthy soil and healthy food. We use regenerative methods, source local materials, and build local relationships. We’re constantly learning and stewarding the land with the most up-to-date practices. We respect the land and acknowledge the contract we’ve formed with our community. We hope you’ll join us.

Who you’ll be farming with?

Kenneth Meyers - Kenny has been Arcadia Farm’s Co-Manager since 2019. A graduate of the University of Maryland's Institute of Applied Agriculture, he learned vegetable farming in Maine and helped launch a vegetable farm business in Montana. This year marks his 10th year of growing vegetables. Kenny focuses on growing nutrient-dense vegetables with regenerative methods and educating our community on best production practices. 

Sam Stern - Sam is a Navy veteran turned farmer. Sam became Arcadia Farm’s Co-Manager in 2022 after completing Arcadia’s Veteran Reserve Program and Rodale Institute’s Veteran Farmer Training program in 2021. 2023 will be Sam’s third year farming. He’s focused primarily on the ancestral practice of seed-keeping, storytelling, and stewarding the land with regenerative methods. Sam is also one of our incubator farmers this year, co-farming as a member of SeedEd Farm.

What about after your fellowship?

It’s a little up to you. Your experience as a fellow will be intentional from the start. At Arcadia Farm we offer an incubator program where you can start your own farm business on ⅛ of an acre. In the end, we hope you spend our time together leading you to what’s next.

Application - Rolling Admission

Ready to apply? You can find the application by clicking HERE: https://forms.gle/4BB4m4Z6hxtsNg7C7

Our application focuses on your journey and decision to farm. We’re interested in your intention and goals and want to learn about you and what’s brought you to this point. We will request a cover letter where you can share some of this and a follow-on interview to share more. We’re excited to meet you.

Who is Eligible?

The fellowship is open to veterans, immediate family members, and active duty military. The fellowship can be eligible for the VA’s On-the-Job Training program which supplements the salary. We also support and work with the Army Career Skills Program and DoD Skillbridge active duty personnel.

Arcadia is an Equal Opportunity Employer and Prohibits Discrimination and Harassment of Any Kind. Arcadia is committed to the principle of equal employment opportunity for all employees and to providing employees with a work environment free of discrimination and harassment. All employment decisions at Arcadia are based on business needs, job requirements and individual qualifications, without regard to race, color, religion or belief, family or parental status, or any other status protected by the laws or regulations in the locations where we operate. Arcadia will not tolerate discrimination or harassment based on any of these characteristics. Arcadia encourages applicants of all ages.

 

VETERAN FARM INCUBATOR

Arcadia also operates a Veteran Farm Incubator on Arcadia Farm at Woodlawn, in Alexandria, VA that is open to graduates of Arcadia's training programs, and other veterans on a case-by-case basis. Arcadia provides access to land, water for irrigation, shared equipment, and additional shared infrastructure to support the incubator farmers as they launch their new farm businesses.

Application: The Application deadline for the 2023 Incubator Farm Production season is January 3, 2023, however, applications will be reviewed as they are submitted. The application is online, and can be found HERE: https://forms.gle/PcfKkkviX2TxSnE3A

 

PROGRAM SUPPORT

Thanks to our generous sponsors who make the Veteran Farmer Program possible:
USDA
Grace Communications Foundation
Neighborhood Restaurant Group
Northrop Grumman
Northern Virginia Community Foundation
Prince Charitable Trusts
Jen Walker Realty

Arcadia continues to raise funds from private donors, philanthropic organizations, corporate sponsorships, and governmental grants to finance the Veteran Farmer Program. For information about sponsorship opportunities, please visit www.arcadiafood.org/VFPSponsorshipOpportunities, or contact Pamela Hess, Executive Director, at Pam@Arcadiafood.org.

From the Arcadia Blog

  • Garlic Love -- Isaac "Zeek" Lee, Farmer-Veteran

     As many of you may know, one of our Farm Fellows this year, Zeek Lee, is quite smitten with garlic. Given that planting garlic is one of the last big projects of the year, I asked him to share some...

  • Soil Magic: Reflections From a Veteran Farm Fellow

    By Vanessa Hale, USAF, ret.  The first time I cooked food I had helped grow at Arcadia, I started to cry.  Maybe,  just maybe,  it was the white spear scallions that helped the tear ducts awaken, but shortly thereafter I was...

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Fall Funtacular - October 16, 2022 Learn More

2023 Veteran Farm Applications Now Open Learn More