Some information in this article provided by Project Victory Gardens
TOWNVILLE, SC – Project Victory Gardens was recently awarded a grant through the United States Department of Agriculture – National Institute of Food and Agriculture Enhancing Agricultural Opportunities for Military Veterans (AgVets) program. This is the first grant of its kind awarded in the state of South Carolina. Project Victory Gardens provides agricultural education programs designed to cultivate resiliency among our nation’s Veterans. Project Victory Gardens will partner with Clemson University and the Clemson Cooperative Extension Agribusiness Team on the grant programming. They have established strategic partnerships with the South Carolina Departments of Agriculture and Veterans’ Affairs, the South Carolina Small Business Development Center, the Farmer Veteran Coalition of South Carolina, and Matson Consulting to offer education, training, and business development resources for Veterans interested in farming and agriculture.
The grant will be used to support Project Victory Gardens’ Palmetto Veterans in Agribusiness initiative. The program will provide military Veterans, transitioning service members, and military family members with the training and resources they need to start or grow a business in the agribusiness sector.
The program will offer a variety of training and support services, including:
- Farmer Bootcamp: A two- or four-day training program that will teach Veterans the skills they need to start or grow a farm.
- Veteran Agribusiness Internship Program: A program providing transitioning service members with hands-on experience working in an agribusiness setting.
- Veteran Agribusiness Outreach Fair: A resource symposium connecting Veterans with resources and organizations that can help them succeed in agribusiness.
- Agritourism Incubator and Farms of the Brave™ Veteran Agritourism Marketing and Branding Program: A program that will help Veterans develop and market agritourism businesses.
“We are thrilled to receive this grant from USDA-NIFA,” said Matthew Rutter, Executive Director of Palmetto Veterans in Agribusiness. “This funding will allow us to provide even more veterans with the training and support they need to start or grow a business in the agribusiness sector. We believe that agriculture is a great way for Veterans to transition to civilian life and build a successful career.”
The Palmetto Veterans in Agribusiness program is open to all military Veterans and transitioning service members, regardless of their age, gender, or service branch. Programming officially began on October 13, 2023 at the nonprofit's farm in Townville and will continue to be held there and at other designated areas across South Carolina.
"We've been boot strapping some farmer boot camp programs over the past couple of years, but now we have a regular set calendar so you'll see our two- and a new four-day farmer boot camp program appearing regularly in Charleston, Columbia, and up here in Townville," said Kara Rutter, President of Project Victory Gardens. "We have some other really exciting things coming as far as agritourism. We feel that that agritourism is critical to building a small to medium sized farm because it provides you with some additional income streams."
The target audience of this project is military Veterans, transitioning service members, and military family members seeking self-employment and career opportunities in the agribusiness fields in South Carolina. Expected outcomes include:
- Increasing access to agriculture and knowledge of agricultural practices for transitioning service members.
- Providing workforce readiness opportunities for service-disabled Veterans.
- Facilitating connections and increasing outreach between Veterans and resource organizations.
- Increased rural development.
"There are certainly Veterans who need help and we see that there are many nonprofits that help Veterans, but there are so many other Veterans, and Matt and Kara are a perfect example of taking their military experience, taking their passion and translating it into something new," said SCDVA Secretary Todd B. McCaffrey. "They were not farmers before they started this effort, but now they've moved into this new industry and they're now teaching other Veterans how to move into the same industry. So it's a remarkable story of resilience and enthusiasm and exactly the kind of entrepreneurship that we're looking for in South Carolina."
This grant is an excellent example of how the USDA-NIFA AgVets program is helping to create new opportunities for military Veterans in agriculture. The program is making it possible for veterans to use their skills and experience to build a successful career in the food and agricultural sector.
Applications for the program are now being accepted. For more information, please visit www.palmettovetsinag.org.