Kentucky has produced some notable products Louisville Slugger baseball bats, a bevy of bourbons and a certain kind of fried chicken.
One of the newest is not so well-known: Homegrown by Heroes, a label stamped on products from Kentucky farmers who served in the military.
The brand is going national, with help from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It aims to increase the lending, marketing and other services it provides to veterans, especially those who served recently in Iraq and Afghanistan.
This is really about creating opportunity for our veterans, said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in a telephone news conference this week.
Many veterans have returned to long-established farms that are part of mainstream food production, but Vilsack said the new effort is for beginners who might sell their products at farmers markets and other local venues.
The Farmer Veteran Coalition, based in Davis, will administer the Homegrown by Heroes program on the national level. The federal Farm Credit System donated $250,000 for the launch.
Were very excited, said Michael OGorman, executive director of the coalition. The veterans in particular are excited about this project.
Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer announced the national expansion on Veterans Day earlier this month and joined Vilsack and OGorman on the conference call. He said that at this point, the label mainly has gone on vegetables grown by veterans on a small scale.
We think that agriculture is a great career opportunity for military veterans, Comer said, and its also great therapy for wounded veterans who have returned from the wars.
He noted that the jobless rate for veterans is higher than the overall unemployment rate.
Jim Greer, manager of veterans services for Stanislaus County, said some of his clients could make use of the services offered through the USDA and its partners. He also said military training can carry over to the farm.
A lot of them are heavy-equipment operators, which translates into driving tractors, Greer said.
California has another program that trains veterans for farm careers: Ag Warriors, a partnership of College of the Sequoias in Visalia and the state universities in Fresno and San Luis Obispo.
The promoters of Homegrown by Heroes said veterans felt a sense of purpose in the military that they can redirect to farming.
Or as OGorman put it at the national launch, The veterans we work with have served their country twice once by defending it, and now by feeding it.
Got an idea for the Farm Beat? Contact John Holland at email@example.com or (209) 578-2385.