September 8, 2015

Sgt. Shaft caricatureDear Sgt Shaft
Before becoming the executive director of Arcadia, a 501©3 nonprofit in Alexandria, I was a reporter covering the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Our service members took incredible care of me when I was in some hairy situations, and I feel a strong debt to them. The program outlined below — helping veterans find new careers in agriculture — is one way I am expressing my gratitude. I would be grateful if you would share this with your networks.

Arcadia, a food and farming-focused nonprofit in Alexandria, Va., just outside the gates of Fort Belvoir, is launching a paid training program for veterans who want to become farmers.

As you know 250,000 service members separate from the military annually and they are looking for meaningful work. At the same time, the nation faces a crisis in agriculture: the average farmer is now over 58 years old, and we need at least 100,000 new farmers over the next 10 years to replace those retiring.

For some veterans, farming is a perfect fit. Good farmers need the qualities military service creates in spades: mission orientation, resilience, the ability to plan, execute, and adapt; to overcome crises and rise to physical challenges. Farming offers independence; it requires both leadership and team work, and it rewards an entrepreneurial spirit and strength of character. That pretty much describes everyone I met in uniform overseas.

Arcadia will be hiring one Veteran Fellow this fall (and more as new funding comes in) to work for a year as a paid member of Arcadia’s farm staff at our farm. We will teach our Fellow the basics of farming, and help them get started. The fact that we pay is unusual; most farm training programs charge for the experience or require the trainee to donate their time.

Here’s information about the Veteran Farm Training program. A link to the application is found under Veteran Farm Fellowship Program. I have also attached the application.

In January we’ll launch a related monthly training program for veterans and active-duty service members who have full time jobs but want to explore farming as a potential future career. It will take place one weekend a month, with participants spending an additional two weeks a year working on our farm to get a sense of the day-to-day reality. This will be a tuition-based program, but we will also offer scholarships. Applications will be available in late September.

More information can be found here:

For those who want to support the transition of veterans to farming, we are having a benefit harvest farm dinner at Woodlawn-Pope-Leighey — the location of our farm — to raise money and celebrate the start of the program so close to my heart and two years in the planning. The dinner is Sept. 20.

Eight top chefs from some of the greatest restaurants in the Washington area are preparing a five-course dinner — donating their time, skill, and food — to support the Veteran Farmer Program. It will be a pretty magical night — enjoying an incredible meal on the lawn of the mansion as the sun begins to set with like-minded diners who also support veterans.

Dinner is all-inclusive and 100 percent of the proceeds benefit the farmer training program. Click here for more information and tickets. There is also an option to buy a ticket for a veteran — we have a list of more than 20 who have contacted us hoping to enroll in the training program.

Thanks very much for helping spread the word!

Best wishes,
Pamela Hess
Executive Director
Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food and Agriculture
(202) 280-0076

Dear Pam
Hope this helps.

Shaft Notes
The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S.
and Student Veterans of America (SVA) are seeking student veteran candidates to participate in the 2016 VFW-SVA Legislative Fellowship program. The fellowship will once again offer 10 selected student veterans the unique opportunity to meet face-to-face with their legislators next spring as part of the VFW National Legislative Conference, as well as additional academic opportunities for fellows to substantively address veterans’ issues in their communities. 

Student veterans interested in applying for the 2016 VFW-SVA Legislative Fellowship must complete an application package that includes an essay proposal on one of four specific legislative issues. The proposal should include a discussion of why the issue is important to the veterans’ community, and how the fellowship candidate plans to address the issue through community-based advocacy. Selected fellows will then be flown to Washington, D.C., to storm Capitol Hill alongside fellow veterans’ advocates as part of the 2016 VFW Legislative Conference, Feb. 28March 3.

“SVA recognizes the assets and potential that student veterans bring to the table at all levels of the policy discussion,” said Will Hubbard, SVA Vice President of Government Affairs. “We look forward to continuing our strong relationship with the VFW, with the focus of informing members of Congress on the major successes and opportunities for student veterans, while demonstrating the value and return on investment of the G.I. Bill.”

VFW-SVA Legislative Fellowship opportunities are open to currently-enrolled student veterans at colleges and universities with active SVA chapters. Candidates must also satisfy VFW membership criteria, which can be found here. For the application essay proposal, applicants must select one of the following veterans’ issues to write about:

  • The effects of budget sequestration on military and veteran programs;
  • Challenges in the transition from military to civilian life;
  • Fostering veteran success in higher education; or
  • Access and accountability in delivering veterans’ health care.

All applications must be submitted by close-of-business Oct. 30, 2015. Selected fellows will be notified before Thanksgiving, with a formal announcement of the fellowship class at the SVA National Conference in Orlando, Fla. For full details about the fellowship and to apply, visit:


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