Changes in the funding of a popular Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service project for active duty and veteran military members who want to become involved in production agriculture will allow the program to further improve and expand.
The BattleGround to Breaking Ground Program of Texas AgrAbility received a Beginning Farmer Rancher Development Program grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, said Erin Kimbrough, BattleGround to Breaking Ground program manager, Bryan-College Station.
“This grant for beginning farmers and ranchers will allow us to continue the program for at least another four years and will also allow us to widen its reach,” Kimbrough said.
What is BattleGround to Breaking Ground?
The BattleGround to Breaking Ground Project is a four-phase educational program available to veterans and active-duty military and their families, as well as other beginning farmers and ranchers.
“BattleGround to Breaking Ground provides online education, hands-on training, disability support services, mentorships, peer support and veteran transition support,” Kimbrough said. “Participants learn how to develop a business plan and access funding for an agricultural operation.”
She said the program will be making some improvements to better serve limited-experience participants by adding an in-person five-day boot camp and launching the registered BattleGround to Breaking Ground SkillBridge program for transitioning military members.
“We will also enhance the success and sustainability of new and beginning farmers and ranchers by offering stipends to program graduates and launching a BattleGround to Breaking Ground Mentor Training Program to pay mentors to train other program participants,” Kimbrough said.
Since spring 2017, more than 1,000 participants have been served through the BattleGround to Breaking Ground program. About three-fourths of participants are military veterans, and program graduates are eligible for additional funding.
“Additionally, 100% of program graduates have started or expanded agricultural operations, and more than 97% expect to benefit economically from the information gained through the program,” Kimbrough said.
More on BattleGround to Breaking Ground Program content and pricing can be found at https://txagrability.tamu.edu/bgbg/.
Changes to the program
“The BattleGround to Breaking Ground program will remain predominantly for active duty and veteran military service members wanting to become involved in production agriculture,” Kimbrough said. “But now we will be adding some tuition-waived slots for nonmilitary participants in each of our cohorts.”
Kimbrough said specific changes in the program will be:
- A five-day Introduction to Agriculture Production crash course that includes an introduction to business planning and farm tours for various enterprise areas.
This comprehensive “boot camp” during Phase 1 of the program will give participants a more complete understanding of everything the program entails. It includes an introduction to business planning, an introduction to agriculture funding, land management strategies including natural resource management and soil management, financial risk management, farm tours for various enterprise areas and more.
“We currently have a three-day basic training course but will be expanding that so participants can get the full picture of the program phases, the amount and variety of knowledge they can obtain and the benefits of networking,” Kimbrough said.
- Collaboration with the Department of Defense SkillBridge Program.
The DOD SkillBridge program allows active-duty military who are within 180 days of separation from military service to participate in training and development opportunities for transitioning from the military into a civilian career field. Participants are still paid and receive their benefits from military while completing this program. Participants will also receive transition services while in the program to assist active-duty participants in making the transition to civilian life more easily.
“We hope becoming affiliated with this program will help increase awareness among those about to leave the military of the variety of career opportunities in production agriculture and related agribusinesses,” she said.
- Combining Phase 2 and Phase 3 of the program.
Phase 2 is the Business Planning Course portion of the program, and Phase 3 is the Agriculture Production Course portion.
“This is part of the SkillBridge program and will only be combined for those who are active duty going through the approved transition program,” Kimbrough said. “They will be combined so both phases can be completed in 16 weeks.”
SkillBridge applications for the cohorts are accepted separately. Those interested can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to obtain an application.
- Mentor Training Program.
“We will be adding a mentor training component to Phase 4 of the program,” Kimbrough said. “The purpose will be to identify those interested in becoming mentors for future program cohorts and provide them with the tools and knowledge to become mentors so we can continue to widen our program outreach.”
She said graduates of the Phase 4 program will become certified Battleground to Breaking Ground mentors and will be eligible to receive a stipend to conduct hands-on training for current Phase 3 participants.
Key dates and information for Cohort 12
Applications for Cohort 12 of the Battleground to Breaking Ground program opened May 20.
The program has applications to waive the tuition for Phase 2. And if participants complete all Phase 2 requirements by the established deadlines, submit a complete business plan by week 16 and actively participate in all program activities, they may also be eligible to have tuition waived for the Phase 3 course.
Successful applicants for Cohort 12 who enter the program on a tuition-free basis will need to attend the basic training course in person.
Key dates for Cohort 12 are:
— June 8 at noon — Applicant webinar. Register at https://txagrability.tamu.edu/calendar/.
— July 11 at 5 p.m. — Tuition-waived application deadline for Cohort 12.
— Aug. 22 — Paid tuition due.
— Aug. 25-27 – Basic training in Nixon.
— Aug. 29 — Coursework begins.
Questions regarding the BattleGround to Breaking Ground Program can be sent to email@example.com.