Empowering Veterans to Thrive in Agriculture

After meeting with U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, in late June 2012, Lyle Stewart setup an initial meeting on June 21, 2012 with representatives from the Iowa Farm Bureau to discuss a Farmer Veteran Coalition.

Lyle next facilitated a meeting on July 12, 2012, at Iowa State University (ISU), to discuss establishing an “Iowa Farmer Veteran Coalition”. 25 representatives from: ISU Extension, ISU Agricultural Marketing Resource Center, ISU Veterans Services, ISU Agricultural Education, ISU Benton Center for Agricultural Instruction and Technology Transfer, Iowa Association of Agricultural Educators, Drake Agricultural Law Center, National Center for Appropriate Technology, National Farmer Veterans Coalition, and the Iowa Air National Guard attended the meeting.

On September 6, 2012 a “Mission Update” was held at the Iowa National Guard Headquarters, Camp Dodge. The update included speakers from: United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Task Force on Veterans; USDA Veterans Employment Division; National Farmer Veteran Coalition; Iowa Workforce Development, Veteran Services program; Iowa Department of Education, Veteran Job Apprenticeships program; Iowa Department of Education, Career and Technical Education program; Iowa National Guard, Job Connection Education Program; and the “Hero 2 Hired”, Iowa Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve program. Discussion included: review of programs available to veterans; how to promote/communicate to the public what is available to veterans to help them get into farmer or agricultural jobs; and the need to encourage more collaboration among all entities that are working to help veterans get jobs/careers, particularly in farming or agribusiness.

December 6, 2012 a steering committee met and decided to proceed with incorporation of the Farmer Veteran Coalition of Iowa. On January 10, 2013 at a meeting, John Baker moved for the adoption of the Articles of Incorporation of the Farmer Veteran Coalition of Iowa; seconded by Lyle Stewart; motion passed. Incorporators included: Ed Cox, Beth Grabau, Abby Cline, Steve Ferguson, Hanna Lewis, David Baker, Morey Hill, Mike Bobst, John Baker and Lyle Stewart. John Baker moved that the initial eight board of directors to be: Ed Cox, Abby Cline, Mike Bobst, Steve Ferguson, David Baker, Morey Hill, Lyle Stewart, and John Baker would serve as an advisor and ex-officio member; seconded by Ed Cox; motion passed. Mike Bobst moved to elect Ed Cox as Chairman of the board of the Farmer Veteran Coalition of Iowa, seconded by Morey Hill, motion passed. Morey Hill moved that Lyle Stewart be elected Secretary/ Treasurer, Steve Ferguson seconded, motion passed. Mike Bobst moved that Abby Cline be elected as Vice-chairman, seconded by John Baker, motion passed. Morey Hill moved that an Organizational Development Committee be setup and that it would consist of the initial board of directors, seconded by Steve Ferguson, motion passed.

In April 2013 we established our mission: “To empower veterans to thrive in Iowa Agriculture”.

December 2013 held the First Annual Conference at Easter Seals of Iowa with 80 in attendance.

February 2014 – Regional workshop were held for veterans in agriculture at Ottumwa, Waterloo, Red Oak and Storm Lake.

April 2014 – Presented a “Free Tax Webinar”

July 2014 – Participated in the “Midwest Farmer Veteran Conference” at Drake University

November 2014 – 501(3)(c) Non-Profit application sent to IRS.  Participated in the “National Farmer Veteran Stakeholders Conference” at Drake University.

In January 2015, held a Strategic Planning meeting at Veterans Reception Center in Van Meter.  Ed Cox attended the Veteran’s Day Observance at the State Legislature.

March 2015 the organization adopted the new name Veterans In Agriculture (VIA).

May 2015 Approved by IRS as a 501(c) 3 designation as a charitable non-profit organization.

June 2015 meeting with Home Base Iowa personnel. 120 people have subscribed and 130 additional people have contact the website.  Strategic Planning Committee proposal presented.

July 2015 – Board Retreat, Focus Group meeting with farmer-veterans and  participated in the “Service Providers for Veterans Conference” at ISU.

September 2015 – Participated in break-out session during the “6th Annual Iowa Statewide Veterans Conference”.

October 2015 hired consultants present Strategic Planning report for VIA with updated Key Result Areas (KRA’s) and the “VIA Board Recommendations for Next Steps”.  Jathan Chicoine and Lyle Stewart attend the SBA “Boots to Business Reboot Training in Cedar Rapids.

November 2015 interviewed two candidates for part-time Executive Director Position.

December 2015, Jeff Johnson accepted position as Executive Director of Veterans in Agriculture, on a ½ time basis.

January 2016, board met with Secretary of Ag., Bill Northey and General Orr, from the National Guard at Northey’s office.

February 2016, Lanon Baccam, USDA, Under Deputy Secretary of Agriculture, Military Veterans Liaison visited with the VIA board.

March 3rd – April 15thConducted 8 Regional Beginning Farmers and Military/Veterans Workshop, sponsored by: Iowa Bankers Association, Farm Service Agency, FFA Alumni, Iowa Finance Authority and Veterans in Agriculture.  251 attended the workshops.

April 2016 – 4 board members participated in the Home Base Iowa Partners Summit.

May 2016 – Jeff & Lyle worked the exhibit booth at the Iowa Barnstormer’s Military/Veterans Appreciation Night.  Jathan Chicoine was a keynote speaker at Operation Engage America Veterans Fair at Camp Dodge and Jeff & Lyle worked the exhibit booth.

June 2016 Tracy Keninger, Jeff Johnson and Lyle Stewart met with Jason Kemp, project manager, Home Base Iowa.