Applications are now being accepted for Cohort 11 of the BattleGround to Breaking Ground program for active-duty military, veterans and others offered through the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.
“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.”
Kimbrough said successful applicants for Cohort 11 on a tuition-free basis will need to attend the “basic training” portion of the project in person. Basic training for Cohort 11 will be Jan. 13-15 in Nixon.
Key dates for Cohort 11 are:
— Dec. 1, Tuition-waived application closes at 5 p.m.
— Jan. 3, Cohort coursework begins.
— Jan. 7, Paid tuition due.
Program options and costs
There are two options for Cohort 11 participation. The first is for active-duty military and veterans only. For this option, it is necessary to 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 other participants. Those paying the full tuition cost can skip the application process and bypass any in-person requirements.
Tuition-waived applications close at 5 p.m. on Dec. 1, and remaining applications close at 5 p.m. on Dec. 3. Application instructions can be found at the Texas AgrAbility website. To apply, go to https://tx.ag/Cohort11App. A recorded instructional webinar is also available, and a link to the webinar will be available on the site.
The cost for program 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.
The tuition cost for Phase 2 of the program is $600, and Phase 3 is $900. For more information, go to https://tx.ag/Cohort11Tuition.
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.”
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.
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. Participants also get information about transition services through VetAdvisors and disability services through the Texas AgrAbility program of AgriLife Extension.
Phase 3 is hands-on training involving eight months of online courses specific to the participant’s production area; 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 U.S. Department of Agriculture 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 phases, 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 completing the program can email Kimbrough at firstname.lastname@example.org or give online to the No Veteran Left Behind Excellence Endowment.