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K-State Today

July 5, 2016

K-Staters help veterans transition to a career in agriculture

Submitted by Jackie Hartman

Eight K-State faculty and staff members serve on board of directors for the Service Member's Agricultural Vocation Education, or SAVE, program, an emerging project organized by Kansas veterans, agricultural organizations and K-State representatives to help veterans and transitioning service members — particularly those with traumatic injuries — transition to a career in production agriculture or agribusiness. They will be critical to facility design and program development, and at completion, many more K-Staters will be required for key roles in further curriculum development, agriculture and clinical services.

SAVE is a 501(C)(3). The organization's goal is to create a campus with a model teaching farm complete with multiple crops, a full range of livestock, fruit trees, produce gardens, a beekeeping facility, machine shop, metal and welding shop, wood shop, a teaching kitchen and a welcome center complete with a small retail outlet. The SAVE campus will have residential facilities, clinical counseling and rehabilitation services to assist those with visible and invisible wounds with ongoing and continuing therapy and care.

As the program progresses from conceptual to a fully-functional training and therapeutic venue, various academic departments at K-State are expected to be the conduits for many grants that are expected to be made available through U.S. Department of Agriculture, Department of Veterans Affairs and other agencies. The SAVE program is supported by the USDA as a model that can be replicated by the other 78 land-grant universities.

The nation needs to preserve the family-owned farms. Over the next several years, the U.S. will need more than 1 million new farmers to take the place of our aging farmers. With some 2.3 million recent veterans, 1 million-plus have expressed an interest in agribusiness. In addition, about a half million of these veterans have some type of disability. There is a pressing need for specific training and clinical services to fill this role.

The robust course of agricultural education to be provided with cooperation from Kansas State University will be innovative and unique. The SAVE farm will train veterans to become farmers in a reasonably short time frame featuring opportunities to match veterans with mentor farmers so they can train/work alongside, manage and one day own a family farm.

K-State faculty and staff will participate in this inspiring program of transition, training, therapy and succession and will continue to partner with SAVE in various ways to make this project a reality. In return for all that our soldiers have done for our nation, we owe them such an opportunity. 

For more information, contact Joel Anderson, Office of Research and Sponsored Programs; Kerri Ebert, AgrAbility/SARE; Charlie Griffin, family studies and human services; Dale Herspring, professor emeritus of political science; Vibhavari Jani, interior architecture & product design; Pat Murphy, professor emeritus of biological and agricultural engineering; Candice Shoemaker, horticulture and natural resources; or Ron Wilson, Huck Boyd Institute for Rural Development.