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 now being accepted for Cohort 10 of the Battleground to Breaking Ground Program for active-duty military, veterans and others offered through the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.

Applications for tuition waivers will open June 7 for this cohort that begins in the fall. Cohort 10 applications will be open from June 7 through July 14.

“We have a limit of 45 people in each Battleground to Breaking Ground Program cohort,” said Erin Kimbrough, AgriLife Extension family and community health agent, Bryan-College Station. “Fifteen of these spaces are offered tuition-free for active duty and retired military whose applications are accepted.”

What is Battleground to Breaking Ground?

“The Battleground to Breaking Ground Program 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,” Kimbrough said. “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.”

An introductory video on the program can be viewed  here.

Basic training and key dates

Kimbrough said successful applicants who accept the tuition waiver for Cohort 10 will need to attend the “basic training” portion of the project in person Aug.12-14 at Mesquite Field Farm in Nixon.

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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.

Key dates for this Cohort 10 will be:

  • June 7, Tuition-waived application process opens.
  • June 7, Tuition paid option for Phase 2 opens.
  • June 16, Applicant webinar at 2 p.m. Registration link to webinar in application.
  • July 14, Tuition-waived application process closes.
  • Aug. 9, Paid tuition due.
  • Aug. 16, Cohort coursework begins.

Program options and costs

There are two options for Cohort 10 participation. The first is for active-duty military and veterans only. For this option, participants must complete an application for one of the 15 tuition-waived spots. Once those spots are filled, additional participants will be required to pay full tuition.

The second option is for all participants. Those paying the full tuition cost can skip the application process and bypass any in-person requirements.

The tuition cost for Phase 2 of the program is $600, and the cost for Phase 3 is $900.

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

Phases of the Battleground to Breaking Ground program

Phase 1 is an agriculture workshop. This is a day-long program covering business planning, rural business ideas, farming/ranching with a disability and funding sources for agricultural businesses. The Phase 1 workshop is also available online for $30.

Phase 2 includes 16 weeks of online business planning courses, individual education planning, educational webinars and additional educational modules for agencies/organizations that provide funding. Weekly lessons walk participants through business planning, agriculture operations and management, agricultural marketing, and agriculture business financial planning and management.

Participants complete their agriculture business plan throughout the course receiving transition services through VetAdvisors and disability services through the Texas AgrAbility program of AgriLife Extension.

Phase 3 includes 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.

Other benefits of the program

Graduation from the Battleground to Breaking Ground program also helps participants meet the eligibility requirements for USDA Farm Service Agency low-interest farm loans. It also provides useful information on and access to additional funding sources through other loans and grants.

“Completion of the program increases graduates’ ability to successfully operate and manage their agriculture operations,” Kimbrough said.

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 Kimbrough at Erin.Pilosi@ag.tamu.edu or give online to the No Veteran Left Behind Excellence Endowment.

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