I’ve talked in the past about resources for veterans interested in starting their own businesses. But what if you aren’t interested in starting your own business, but would love to support those who are? Well, this week, I’m going to cover some ways you can find, and support, veteran-owned businesses. I’m going to start with Homegrown by Heroes.
Homegrown by Heroes was one of two veteran-related programs, the other being Jobs for Vets, started by the Kentucky Department of Agriculture in 2013 as part of a “Kentucky Proud” marketing project. The goal of both programs was to support Kentucky veterans in agriculture. The Jobs for Vets initiative used (and still uses) a job pairing program to facilitate veteran employment in the agricultural field and, thereby, assist/replenish the quickly aging Kentucky farming population. While veterans already operating an agribusiness were given help promoting their products through use of the Homegrown by Heroes marketing label, which allows consumers to easily identify veteran-owned businesses and products.
The Homegrown by Heroes program drew a lot of interest, both within and outside of Kentucky, and in May of this year, the Farmer Veteran Coalition facilitated the expansion of the program to a national scale. In just two months, the program has grown to include veteran-owned businesses stretching from Oregon to Louisiana to New York. These businesses include Iraq veterans selling eggs in Omaha and grass fed beef in Maine, a Desert Storm vet who’s a third generation Vidalia onion farmer, a retired Lieutenant Colonel growing wheat and lentils in Montana, and a Vietnam Veteran who started his poultry farm after Hurricane Katrina destroyed everything he had. Every day, more farmers are applying to carry the Homegrown by Heroes label (application available on the Homegrown by Heroes website).
All companies and products who hold the label must meet the following requirements:
- Businesses or operations must be at least 50% veteran-owned and products must be made of at least 50% veteran-produced ingredients
- Veterans must be honorably (or general under honorable) discharged from any service era or branch, or active duty servicemembers with a letter from their commanders attesting to their character of service
- Meet at least the minimum food safety requirements for their distribution area
- Have their eligibility verified annually
To keep up with new farms and products as they get approved, follow Farmer Veteran Coalition’s Facebook page. And keep an eye on the Homegrown by Heroes FB page and Twitter feed, which are in existence but not yet active.
© 2014, Sarah Maples. All rights reserved.