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Sheffield farmer and Marine veteran Ken Brummel stands in a field of his white corn, which goes straight from the Brummel farm to a tortilla market that processes the white corn into tortilla chips it sells. Brummel is in the process of trying to add his white corn products to the Homegrown by Heroes label program.
NewsTribune photo/Chris Yucus
Think you qualify?
One must have served honorably or still be serving in any branch of the U.S. Armed Forces, and be at least 50 percent owner and/or operator of the farm business. Veterans of all eras are encouraged to apply. Farmer Veteran Coalition staff assists applicants in developing food safety plans and, if needed, business plans. FVC is accepting and processing Homegrown by Heroes applications which can be completed at hgbh.org.
SHEFFIELD — Walking through the grocery store, you may start to notice a new label on certain products, specifically those products grown by U.S. veterans.
It all began in Kentucky and now the movement has found its way through north central Illinois, as the Farmer Veteran Coalition recently announced the national launch of the Homegrown by Heroes marketing initiative.
This product labeling program will allow farmers, ranchers, fishermen, and the like from all 50 states and U.S. territories who have served or still are serving in any branch of the U.S. military the ability to use this particular logo on their agricultural products.
“Today’s consumers are looking at packaging,” said Sheffield farmer and veteran Ken Brummel who raises white corn for the tortilla market. “Whether they’re looking for something that says non-gmo or looking for something that says grown in the United States, they’ve become very label-specific. Any bit of advice they can glean off that label encourages them to buy it. I think if I can get the label on these bags of chips, it’ll sell several more bags. What it’ll do is bring me closer to the food chain; it’s going to let the consumer know that the product isn’t too far off from them.”
The Kentucky Department of Agriculture created the ‘Homegrown by Heroes’ marketing initiative as part of their Kentucky Proud marketing program last year, and at a bipartisan event, Kentucky’s political and National Guard leaders joined Agricultural Commissioner James Comer as he announced the national partnership with the FVC to launch Homegrown by Heroes program outside the commonwealth.
“From the beginning of the Homegrown by Heroes program, we hoped that it would grow to a national scale so it could benefit veterans from every state,” explained Comer in a press release. “Now, that hope has become a reality with the help of the Farmer Veteran Coalition and our other generous partners. With this intiative we can give something back to those who have given so much in defense of our country.”
Farm Credit, the nation’s largest network of farmer-owned agricultural lenders, supported the national launch of the Homegrown by Heroes label with a donation of $250,000. Derek Weber, vice president of marketing and corporate relations at First Farm Credit Services, said they continually look for opportunities that support their mission of serving rural America.
With branches both in Princeton and Ottawa, the Farm Credit System provides more than $200 billion in loans and leases to farmers, ranchers, rural homeowners, aquatic producers, timber harvesters, agribusinesses, and agricultural and rural utility cooperatives.
“We’re always looking to show people we are involved in all aspects of agriculture,” Weber said. “We serve rural America and are always looking for new opportunities to show that the traditional farmer isn’t our only client. We have a wide client base that’s based on ethnicity, and definitely veterans are very important to us. I think anything as far as support is a positive thing. The industry in general can be very challenging.”
The American Farm Bureau Federation, National Farmers Union, and a wide array of other farm organizations also support the ‘Homegrown by Heroes’ label. Weber anticipates the new label to connect Americans to both their food source and the military, as does Brummel.
“I think it will fill the gap,” emphasized Brummel who served in the Marines Corps from 1982-1988. “There are still two groups in this country that people use all the time, but don’t realize. They use the farmer and military every single day. Consumers being protected somewhere in the world. So this label is going to link those two things showing we’re tied both to military and agriculture.”
And it will also provide employment for returning veterans. The FVC recognizes the commitment of rural Americans to military service with the goal of developing viable employment and meaningful careers through the collaboration of the farming and military communities. At a time when post-9/11 veterans are experiencing a 9 percent unemployment rate (compared to the national average of 6.3 percent), agriculture can be a meaningful solution for returning veterans, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“Thousands of our service men and women leave the rural communities and farms they call home in order to serve our country in the military,” said Michael O’Gorman, executive director of the Farmer Veteran Coalition. “Upon completion of their service, they often return home to resume work on the family farm. Conversely, we work with hundreds of veterans with no agriculture background who, upon returning from service, see opportunity in farming and ranching and decide to embark on a new career path in agriculture.
“By supporting this label, we can help veterans who are serving our country in a new way by producing the food and fiber that feeds and clothes us all. At the same time, we’re helping thousands of young veterans find a new calling in a farming community whose average age is 58 years.”