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Patriot Guardens program receives USDA grant for veteran livestock, aquaculture production training

By Maj. Holli Nelson | West Virginia National Guard Public Affairs | October 10, 2019


The West Virginia Military Authority’s Patriot Guardens program has been awarded a grant in the amount of $667,535 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Institute of Food and Agriculture.


The grant, which will be shared in management by the West Virginia National Guard Foundation and West Virginia Military Authority, will allow Patriot Guardens to provide hands-on and immersive training in livestock and aquaculture production for veterans, active and retired members of the West Virginia National Guard and veteran spouses or military families.

“The award of this grant is an exceptionally important step in the right direction for our Patriot Guardens program, which has proven to be instrumental in educating our West Virginia veteran population on agricultural initiatives and workforce development,” said Maj. Gen. James Hoyer, Adjutant General of the West Virginia National Guard. “This new training initiative has the potential to transform veteran farming in the Mountain State and increase an underutilized section of the agricultural and meat processing industries. I look forward to the great outcomes we will see from this program thanks to this grant and the many partnerships that have been formed through Patriot Guardens.”

In addition to production of aquaculture, Patriot Guardens would be able to provide opportunities for hands-on education in a classroom and laboratory setting for livestock and fish processing in coordination with a local meat processor, Buzz Foods and their new Appalachian Abattoir endeavor.

“With AgVet grant funding, Patriot Guardens can provide more outstanding agricultural education, now with a specific goal of enhancing West Virginia’s local meat industry,” said Dickinson Gould, President of Buzz Food Service and Appalachian Abattoir. “As Buzz works to open Appalachian Abattoir, the state’s most advanced livestock processing facility, hiring staff with industry knowledge and agricultural training is key to our success. We are grateful to partner with the West Virginia Military Authority on this project and optimistic about the possibilities for job creation and opportunities in local agriculture.”

“At the end of 2018, our Patriot Guardens program worked with West Virginia University Extension to provide our first livestock based workshop, which was met with a large participant response. At the same time, we had begun discussions with Dickinson Gould of Buzz Foods and that’s when the program synergy became apparent,” said Melissa Stewart, program director for Patriot Guardens. “We are excited to see what the next three years holds for this collaboration as well as for the program participants who are interested in this subject matter.”

A goal of the program at the end of the three year grant period is to be able to support upwards of 150 West Virginia military and veteran farmers and provide a meat processing certificate program through a career and technical college or trade school collaboration.

The Patriot Guardens program is an integrated agriculture and economic development initiative of the West Virginia Military Authority. It seeks to create an agriculture-centric system to assist West Virginians, particularly but not limited to veterans and military personnel, in education, training and entrepreneurial ventures while also supporting veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and substance abuse while collaborating with other private and non-profit agricultural development groups.

This work is supported by the Enhancing Agricultural Opportunities for Military Veterans (AgVets) Grant Program [grant no. 2019-77028-29970] from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.