Kentucky Ag Dept. launches new programs for veterans

Story and photos by Sgt. Scott Raymond, Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs

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Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner, James Comer speaks during a press conference at Boone National Guard Center in Frankfort, Ky., Jan. 22, 2013. Comer announced two new programs to benefit veterans and military farmers, in cooperation with the Kentucky National Guard. (Kentucky National Guard photo by Sgt. Scott Raymond)

FRANKFORT, Ky. — Serving in the military and farming are said to be two of the hardest jobs one could have.  New initiatives launched by Kentucky’s Department of Agriculture aim to make both just a bit easier in the Commonwealth.  Agriculture Commissioner James Comer announced the Kentucky Proud Jobs for Vets and Homegrown by Heroes programs during a press conference at Boone National Guard Center in Frankfort, Ky., Jan. 22, 2013.

To see more photos from the press conference, click here.

Click here for the Homegrown by Heroes website.

Click here to see the WUKY story.

Click here to see the Lexington Herald-Leader story.

Comer spoke to a packed room that included Kentucky’s Adjutant General, Maj. Gen. Edward W. Tonini, state senators and representatives and veteran/farmers.  He said the initiatives aim to improve employment of veterans in agriculture and to benefit military farmers, by using the state’s successful history on the battlefield and in the crop fields.

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Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner, James Comer thanks Kentucky’s Adjutant General, Maj. Gen. Edward W. Tonini following his speech during a press conference at Boone National Guard Center in Frankfort, Ky., Jan. 22, 2013. Tonini said the two new programs launched by the Agriculture Department would benefit the Kentucky Guard and the Commonwealth. (Kentucky National Guard photo by Sgt. Scott Raymond)

“We know Kentucky is a great agriculture state with a great agriculture heritage, and we know Kentucky is a great military state,” said Comer. “What a great partnership this will be, that will highlight the work of Kentucky troops teaching farming all over the world and to come back and create economic development back here at home. That’s what this partnership is all about.”

The Kentucky Proud Jobs for Veterans program will work to connect military veterans looking for work in agriculture with Kentucky farmers and agribusiness who need labor. Comer said it’s a simple idea that will work with national organizations to connect people from all over the country to employment opportunities in the state.

Robert Silverthorn, Kentucky Field Chairman for the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR), said the new program can help fill the void of employment possibilities in the rural areas of the state for Guardsmen, reservists and veterans.

“This is an exciting day for the Commonwealth of Kentucky,” said Silverthorn. “And the reason is, you have a five billion dollar industry that often times gets lost in the other noise of economic development in our state. And for the Kentucky committee of the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve now to be partnered in this initiative is something that is particularly exciting for us.”

The Kentucky Proud Homegrown By Heroes program allows military farmers to identify themselves through a new logo applied to any or all of their products for sale throughout the state.  Comer said this will only increase the awareness buyers have of products grown in Kentucky and their desire to support not only Kentucky farmers, but also local farmers that are Veterans as well.

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Jars of products produced by military farmers in Kentucky are adorned with the new Kentucky Proud Homegrown By Heroes label at a press conference in Frankfort, Ky., Jan. 22, 2013. Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer hopes the labels will become a national model for other states to implement. (Kentucky National Guard photo by Sgt. Scott Raymond)

Comer has hopes the new programs will become national models for other states to follow.  He called attention to the Veteran Farmer Coalition, whose nationwide mission “is to mobilize veterans to feed America.”

Michael O’Gorman, Executive Director of the Veteran Farmer Coalition said he has been working to introduce veterans to careers in agriculture for years and hopes for every American “to recognize the Homegrown By Heroes label, to know where it came from and to know who it stands for.”

Tonini said Kentucky has always been perceived as a great agriculture state, and in turn produced five successful agribusiness development teams in Afghanistan. The Kentucky Guard has been instrumental in the agricultural improvements overseas, and now has the chance to help out at home.

“There’s no better core in America than Soldiers and farmers, it’s as simple as that,” said Tonini.  “The Kentucky National Guard is very proud to be a part of such a unique endeavor and will support it in every way possible.”

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