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Funding, Networking Available for SC Farmer-Veterans


Jay Boutchyard’s farm Freedom Acres is part of both the Homegrown By Heroes and Certified South Carolina programs.

Funding, Networking Available for SC Farmer-Veterans

Story by Eva Moore

 This story appears in the Jan. 16, 2020 issue of the South Carolina Market Bulletin.

South Carolina is home to thousands of veterans who farm: More than 4,700 Palmetto State farms have a principal producer who’s served in the military, according to the latest Census of Agriculture. And those veterans should know about the resources offered by the national nonprofit Farmer Veteran Coalition.

Helping veterans who farm isn’t just a way to repay them for their service, according to Sarah Dachos, deputy director of the Farmer Veteran Coalition. It’s a way to save farming.

“The average age of a US farmer is 57, and for every two that retire, only one goes into farming,” she notes. Meanwhile, while rural Americans make up one-sixth of the US population, they make up a much higher proportion of the military: Some 45 percent of people in military service are from rural America.

“And most go home after they serve,” Dachos says. “How can we entice them and support them to solve this crisis in agriculture in America?”

The Farmer Veteran Coalition is one answer to that question. Founded in 2007, the nonprofit offers various assistance, including discounts from agricultural suppliers like Kubota and Growers Supply, and grants of up to $5,000 to veterans to help them start or manage a farm.

“The grants can be used for anything that’s going to help you on the farm. It could be used to build a well, to buy Christmas trees, to buy cattle, buy fences, buy seeds,” Dachos says. “Really the sky’s the limit as long as it’s a tangible, physical thing a farmer can use to help him or her get off the ground, or to continue some momentum.”

The coalition also manages the Homegrown By Heroes program, a branding campaign that identifies veteran-owned agricultural products to consumers.

One South Carolina veteran making use of the Homegrown By Heroes program is Jay Boutchyard, a US Army veteran and an employee of the South Carolina Department of Agriculture. He runs a small farm, Freedom Acres, where he grows muscadines, hot peppers, and gourmet mushrooms.

“My farm is Homegrown By Heroes certified,” Boutchyard says. “From a branding perspective, it’s great, because a lot of people try to support veteran-owned businesses. I could have the same product as someone next to me and they’d pick mine.”

South Carolina Commissioner of Agriculture Hugh Weathers says the Homegrown By Heroes program is a natural fit for South Carolina.

“Veterans have done so much for our country — I’m happy there’s something we can all do in return,” Weathers says. “I know South Carolinians stand ready to support veterans, and Homegrown by Heroes helps them do just that.”

The Farmer Veteran Coalition is hoping to launch a South Carolina chapter, and will hold a networking meeting on Feb. 11 in West Columbia. Representatives of organizations that serve veterans and farmers will attend, including Farm Bureau, USDA, Palmetto Agribusiness Council, Clemson Extension, College of Charleston, Farm Credit and SCDA. Lunch will be prepared by Brandon Velie, chef and owner of the farm-to-table restaurant Juniper in Ridge Spring and a veteran of the US Marine Corps.

Farmer-Veteran Coalition Networking Lunch

Tuesday, February 11    11 am – 2 pm

Phillips Market Center
South Carolina State Farmers Market
117 Ballard Court, West Columbia, SC

RSVP to Sarah Dachos at

Membership in the Farmer Veteran Coalition is free.
To join, visit

Applications for 2020 grant funding open soon.
For more information, visit

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