Any veteran interested in turning their swords into plowshares now has an opportunity to do so, with no out-of-pocket expenses. Houston-based Hope Farms has developed a training program designed just for returning veterans. Now, with federal funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, vets get a complete scholarship and a living stipend to help smooth their transition to farming.
If you're reading this and are interested, check out the Hope Farms application page. The application deadline has passed for the cohort set to start on Oct. 1, 2021, but there will be more cohorts to come.
Hope Farms is a seven-acre urban farm in the Sunnyside neighborhood of Houston. Not only does it offer fresh food to the surrounding community, it offers agricultural training to residents and now veterans from all over the country.
The course starts with a 480-hour "Growing Urban Farmers" basic training component spanning 12 weeks. Veterans can get all the knowledge necessary to turn their home gardens into larger urban farming plots. The course will cover how to sell their wares to restaurants and other outlets, such as farmers markets.
Hope Farms' three-month program wants not only to create veterans who want to grow food for their families, but also provide the horticultural skills that can make urban farming a viable career option for their post-military life.
Finishing the "Growing Urban Farmers" training course doesn't have to be the end of the veteran's urban farming training. It opens the doors to many, more advanced courses, called master classes, from Hope Farms as well. These courses are more in-depth looks at other aspects of urban farming, including more advanced business and agricultural lessons. Veterans who show the interest and proficiency in the basic training class can pursue another 1,520 hours of training over nine months.
Some veterans might even be approached to apply for a Hope Farms apprenticeship and work the farm for six months while completing their advanced classes.
With the funding for the program coming from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, no veteran attending the Warriors to Farmer program at Hope Farms will ever have to pay for their tuition. On top of the scholarship, veterans also will receive $13 per hour during training and working sessions, along with cash incentives that can add up to $17 per hour. The master classes also come with completion bonuses to be paid at the end of every course.
After the training courses, veterans can submit business plans to a review board that might allow them to join the Hope Farms Agri-business Incubator Program and participate in the Hope Farms Collaborative. Hope Farms' Agri-business Incubator will teach those graduates how to acquire land, secure supplies and offer advice for starting a small business in farming.
If the timing of the next cohort doesn't suit your schedule, have no fear. Hope Farms takes on four cohorts every year, with start dates in January, April, July and October. If you can't make the deadline for the upcoming October date, the good news is that everyone will be welcome to apply again for the next year.
To learn more about Hope Farms or the Warriors to Farmers program, visit the Hope Farms website. To apply for the October cohort, just visit the farm's application document, fill it out and submit it there.
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