Texas: Battleground to Breaking Ground Program Now Taking Applications

Military veterans plant seeds during a Battleground to Breaking Ground program. Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service photo

Applications are being accepted now through Nov. 20 for the Battleground to Breaking Ground Program for military veterans and others offered through the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.

Applications for tuition waiver and a link to pay tuition are open and being accepted through Nov. 20 for the program’s Cohort 9 to be held next spring, said Erin Kimbrough, AgriLife Extension family and community health agent, Bryan-College Station.

“We have a limit of 45 people in each Battleground to Breaking Ground Program cohort,” Kimbrough said. “Fifteen of these spaces are offered tuition-free for active duty and retired military whose applications are accepted.”

Kimbrough said successful applicants for Cohort 9 who participate tuition-free will need to attend the Basic Training portion of the project in person from Jan. 14-16 at the Flat Community Center, 159 County Road 334 in Gatesville.

The cost for Basic Training is $125 for participants and $75 for spouses. It includes meals, activities, a farm tour, the Battleground to Breaking Ground workshop and all workshop materials. Attendees are responsible for their own lodging.

Program participation options

There are two options for Cohort 9 participation. The first is for active duty military and veterans only. For this option, they must:

  • Complete an application to apply for one of the 15 tuition-waived spots.
  • Attend Basic Training and program graduation in person.
  • Complete 64 of the 100 hands-on training hours at one of the program’s two training Farms — Mesquite Field Farm in Nixon or Farmer’s Education and Training Center in Gatesville.

The second option is for all participants, and they must pay the full tuition, which allows them to waive any in-person requirements.

The tuition cost for the second phase of the program is $600, and the cost for the third phase is $900.

Application instructions can be found on the Texas AgrAbility website. A recorded instructional webinar is available.

What is the Battleground to Breaking Ground Program?

“The Battleground to Breaking Ground Program is made possible thanks to a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture,” Kimbrough said.

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“It is a three-phase program designed to increase the number of military veteran farmers and ranchers, as well as other beginning farmers and ranchers in Texas and beyond. While designed for active-duty military and military veterans and their families, military spouses and beginning farmers and ranchers can also benefit from it.”

The program includes face-to-face and online educational training in farm management and production, individualized educational planning to support diverse agriculture business interests, and both hands-on and online learning.

“These, as well as follow-up mentor support and peer-to-peer learning are offered using a structured format,” Kimbrough said. “The program also offers an array of veteran transition, VA benefits, health and wellness, and disability coaching services.”

Three phases of Battleground to Breaking Ground

The first phase is an agriculture workshop – a day-long program covering business planning, rural business ideas, farming/ranching with a disability and funding sources for agricultural businesses.

“We hold six of these workshops a year in different parts of the state. However, due to the COVID-19 restrictions, an online version of the workshop was conducted and is now posted on our Texas AgrAbility YouTube channel,” Kimbrough said. “The workshop can be viewed free of charge until Dec. 1. After that date, it will be moved to a fee-based online course.”

Phase 2 involves 16 weeks of online business planning courses, individual education planning, educational webinars, and additional educational modules for agencies/organizations that provide funding. It also addresses business planning, agriculture operations and management, and agricultural marketing. Additionally, participants get information about transition services through VetAdvisors and disability services through Texas AgrAbility.

“There are also hands-on opportunities for learning farming and ranching skills, monthly video assignments, VetAdvisors coaching calls and education planning calls,” Kimbrough said. “In addition. there is information and discussion relating to socially disadvantaged and limited-resource farmers and ranchers, as well as farmers and ranchers with a disability or chronic health condition.”

Phase 3 is hands-on training involving eight months of online courses specific to the participant’s area of production; 100 hours of hands-on learning through mentorship and custom-tailored learning opportunities; ongoing transition and disability support services; and monthly coaching and education planning calls.

Kimbrough said graduation from the program also helps participants meet the eligibility requirements for USDA Farm Service Agency low-interest farm loans and increases participant’s knowledge of and access to additional funding sources through other loans and grants. Completion of the program increases graduate’s ability to successfully operate and manage their agriculture operations.

Once participants have completed all requirements for the second and third phase, they will receive a certificate of completion highlighting skills acquired through the program.

Kimbrough said the Battleground to Breaking Ground program consistently receives more applications for tuition-waived spots than are currently available. Those interested in supporting veterans and other active duty military toward completion of the program can email Erin Kimbrough or give online to the No Veteran Left Behind Excellence Endowment.

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