As Americans, we are always extremely grateful to those who serve in our armed forces and risk their life and limb so we all stay safe. One of the important issues facing Veterans is being able to transition into civilian jobs, ensuring that they are able to take care of themselves and their families. A grant from the United States Department of Agriculture aims to help veterans to obtain new skills. The $750,000 grant was awarded to Springfield Community Gardens in order to allow veterans to be better allow them to learn about farming.
Springfield Community Gardens has a very specific mission:
The primary mission of Springfield Community Gardens is to create a community where everyone has access to healthy, local food. Working together, hand in soiled hand, our roots have spread far and wide, helping to serve others, grow fresh food, and enrich our community.”
Veterans deserve better than a lot of the experiences that they go through. And transition skills are really important to ensure that veterans can build careers that will help them through the next phase of their lives. Veterans will be able to learn farming at Amanda Belle’s Farm and will operate as a collaboration effort by Cox Health, a non-profit health care system, and Springfield Community Gardens.
Maile Auterson, director and co-founder of Springfield Community Gardens spoke on this grant award from the USDA:
My father was a veteran, a farmer and worked at CoxHealth for 30 years, so this is an important milestone for me.
I’ve heard many stories about how he couldn’t wait to get off duty from the submarines under the ocean, where he served in the U.S. Navy for 21 years, and come home to the Ozarks and farm, so I’m especially honored to be part of an initiative that benefits farmers.”
Under this grant, Springfield Community Gardens would be able to hire five veterans in the upcoming year for farm-based positions. In addition to this, they will also facilitate outreach through 24 workshops which will provide training on organic small-scale farming techniques, to 50 veteran participants in partnership with MU Extension.
For its part, Missouri currently has about 95,000 farms with the potential for more farming. Nearly all farms in Missouri are family-owned and operated, and generational. This leaves a lot of opportunity for veterans looking to build themselves and their families up.
Kerry Miller, Volunteer Coordinator at CoxHealth and co-founder of the health system’s Wellness for Warriors (WforW) program also spoke about this grant award:
We are thrilled to be in support of this initiative, as we work every day to help our veterans and first responders improve their lives, the grant, and the work being done through it has the potential to forever change lives, right here in our community.”
Other partners for this program include American Legion Post 125, and Missouri State University Citizenship and Service Learning (CASL) in partnership with Missouri State University Veteran Services.