Program helps Veterans combat the US farming shortage
July 26, 2021

“From my experience, being embedded and hanging out with (Veterans), these folks can do anything.” Pamela Hess, Executive Director of the Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food & Agriculture, told Pop Smoke Media this afternoon.

Arcadia is a nonprofit in Alexandria, Virginia, dedicated to providing access for active duty military personnel and Veterans to enter the agricultural sector.

By hosting a three-tiered farmer training program, the Arcadia Center seamlessly connects Veterans to the long-neglected industry.

According to the Center’s website, “The average American farmer is 58 – even older in Virginia – and is nearing retirement. The USDA estimates the nation needs 100,000 new farmers to replace them over the next decade.”

In order to help fill the upcoming gap, Arcadia opened its doors to help Veterans become farmers back in 2015. Since then, hundreds of people have successfully passed the classes.

If the initiative itself wasn’t enough, the land that Arcadia tills used to belong to George Washington.

Arcadia Farms Veterans Initiative

A farmer hard at work at the Arcadia Center. (Courtesy photo provided by Pamela Hess)

Hess informed Pop Smoke, that, the success of the program is “Mostly because of the quality of people who sign up to do this work.”

The best part about the initiative is that it is tailored to the individual, meaning that graduates of any of the programs can direct their skills to whatever sort of farming they would like.

Arcadia Veteran Training Program

Two farmers smiling by a tractor at the Arcadia Center. (Courtesy photo provided by Pamela Hess)

Veteran Farming Program Options

There are three training tiers for Veterans at Arcadia: the Veteran Farmer Reserve Program, the Veteran Farm Fellowship Program, and the Veteran Farm Incubator.

The appropriateness of the programs are usually based on prior agricultural experience. But Hess informed us that the programs are as flexible as they are personal.

As you may guess by the names, the Reserve Program is fee-based, while those in the Fellowship Program get paid to participate.

The Reserve Program is 12-months long and involves dedicating one weekend per month to training. There is also a requirement for Reserve Program participants to commit to 40 hours of hands-on work at Arcadia’s main farm.

According to Hess, the Reserve Program is the most popular of the three, with an average of around 20 participants per year.

The Fellowship Program, unlike the Reserve, is a full-time, nine months on-farm training program. The full-time annual salary for members in the Fellowship Program is $19,000 plus optional health benefits.

While Arcadia would like for program graduates to go through each of the three tiers, the Fellowship Program is the best for comprehensive, hands-on learning on their farm.

The most intensive of the three is the Veteran Farm Incubator. The incubator program gives graduates from the other two programs access to land and supplies to test out what they’ve learned.

After three years in the Incubator program, graduates are able to secure a USDA farming loan as a result of the time spent. Though some may not need the loan, the program offers the option anyways.

To continue learning about Arcadia’s Veteran programs, click here.

To learn more about applying for participation in Arcadia’s upcoming programs, reach out to Executive Director Pamela Hess at

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