(Kutztown, PA) According to the USDA’s Census of Agriculture, during the last 30 years the average age of U.S. farmers has grown by nearly eight years, from 50.5 years to 58.3 years. For many of those farmers, it becomes more difficult every year to climb up onto the tractor. At the same time, farms have become more industrialized prompting a surge in consumer demand for organic foods and other organic agricultural products. Through a partnership with Delaware Valley College, Rodale Institute is literally sending in the troops. Brandon Barnhart, an Air Force veteran who served for eight years of active duty, is now taking on a new mission; feeding people organically to maintain and restore the natural world.
In May 2014, Barnhart graduated from the Organic Farming Program, a 36-credit, one-year certificate program offered through a partnership between DelVal and Rodale Institute. The program is designed to offer military veterans a pathway to a new career in the rapidly growing field of organic agriculture. Veterans covered under the Post-9/11 GI Bill can train for careers in organic agriculture at no cost and receive a stipend for living expenses while they’re learning the business.
The College and Rodale Institute are hosting a BBQ and information session for veterans July 12 from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at Rodale Institute’s farm in Kutztown, Pennsylvania. The event will offer a chance for veterans who are interested in organic farming to meet current participants and staff and learn more about organic farming. A background in farming is not required and anyone who is interested is welcome to attend.
In the Organic Farming Program, participants spend two semesters at DelVal and a summer at Rodale Institute in Kutztown, Pennsylvania. They gain hands-on experience and finish the program with the skills they need to work for an organic operation or start their own businesses. Currently, there are three veterans in the program, with space to accommodate 10 for the fall semester.
Barnhart said he was impressed by the variety of topics the courses cover and the flexibility. He worked with staff to make sure his time at DelVal covered the topics he’s most interested in. He’s taking a solid business plan with him and Barnhart is hopeful about the future.
“I wouldn’t have completed this program if I didn’t think it would be profitable and rewarding,” said Barnhart.
Veterans can register for the Organic Farming Program BBQ and Info Session by visiting http://rodaleinstitute.org/event-registration/?ee=106
About Rodale Institute
Rodale Institute is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to pioneering organic farming through research and outreach. For more than sixty years, we’ve been researching the best practices of organic agriculture and sharing our findings with farmers and scientists throughout the world, advocating for policies that support farmers, and educating consumers about how going organic is the healthiest option for people and the planet.
About Delaware Valley College
Delaware Valley College is an independent, multidisciplinary college with property in Bucks and Montgomery counties. Founded in 1896, it features individualized attention, small class sizes and an applied as well as theoretical approach to learning. The College offers rich programs in the sciences, as well as a variety of programs in business and the humanities, offering more than 25 undergraduate majors, six master’s programs, a Doctor of Education degree, and a variety of complementary adult education courses.
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