SPRINGFIELD, IL — The Illinois Department of Agriculture (IDOA) invites veterans or current active duty service members to participate in the Homegrown by Heroes program. This is ideal for veterans who are interested in a second career in our state’s number one industry, agriculture.
The Homegrown by Heroes program allows Illinois farmers, ranchers, fishermen, and producers who have served or are still serving in any branch of the U.S. military to use a special logo on the agricultural products they sell to the public. This special designation sets these farmers apart in the market, allowing these heroes’ products to be visible to consumers while giving them the chance to tell their story.
“There are great job opportunities in Illinois agriculture. If someone dreams of being a farmer, rancher, or producer, we want to help fulfil those dreams,” says Agriculture Director Raymond Poe. “Various statewide organizations work together to provide a unique opportunity that assists veterans interested in pursuing a second career in agriculture.”
“Since 2011, almost 5 million of our military’s servicemen and servicewomen have come from rural communities throughout the USA. As these veterans return home, they bring with them an opportunity to employ their discipline, passion and sense of service to revitalize America’s small farms and rural communities. We commend the Illinois Department of Agriculture for continuing this wonderful program and assisting our Illinois Heroes,” said Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs Director Erica Jeffries.
The Homegrown by Heroes program is a free program for our veterans. Participants must renew their certification annually renewal at no cost. To be eligible for the program, the veteran must provide proof of service, a letter of support from their commanding officer or a designated representative, and must maintain 50-percent or greater ownership in the business/operation.
For those who qualify, the Homegrown by Heroes Illinois Product logo can be used to identify and market their Illinois grown and Illinois made products on packaging, signage, websites, and social media or wherever their items are being sold.
Thanks to the Department’s partnership with various agencies and organization, such as Illinois Farm Bureau, Farmer Veteran Coalition (FVC), Illinois National Guard, Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs, and Illinois Farmer Veterans Alliance, training and education also are components of the initiative, which will make informational resources available to veterans desiring to farm in the state. These programs will:
• Develop mentorships between experienced farmers and veterans;
• Identify community land access that benefits beginning farmers and saves municipalities’ maintenance costs;
• Locate farmers’ market opportunities and partnerships;
• Assist veterans in developing value-added products;
• Foster relationships with retailers and food service organizations.