homegrown by heroes

Tom Brewer, founder of Red Hat Hops Farm, believes Albuquerque is one of the best beer locations in the country. Brewer spent 20 years in the military. Photo by Michael D. Tedesco

In an effort to help New Mexico veteran farmers promote their food products in the market, the New Mexico Department of Agriculture (NMDA) has partnered with the Farmer Veteran Coalition to combine the NEW MEXICO– Grown with Tradition® logo with the national Homegrown by Heroes logo.

Homegrown by Heroes is a label for veteran farmers and food producers designed to identify the product as being grown or produced by a veteran. It started with the Kentucky Department of Agriculture and has since spread across the nation. Farmer Veteran Coalition’s Special Projects Coordinator Yani Bunch says there are currently more than 1,500 certified members using the label.

“Purchasing produce and food goods from veterans is a good way to support our service members who have already done a lot for their country,” Bunch says. “They’ve protected us. Now they’re working to feed us.”

Benefits of Using the Homegrown by Heroes Label

Veteran farmers and ranchers are encouraged to display the label on everything from their farmers market stand to their egg cartons and produce boxes. Farmer Veteran Coalition notes that veterans who display the logo at the market often have the opportunity to share their story with buyers, which can lead to loyal return customers and better sales.

Bunch says the logo also encourages other food producers in the area to reach out and offer their support.

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“Nonveteran farmers may not even realize there are veteran farmers in their community until they see the Homegrown by Heroes logo,” Bunch says. “Once they see it, many of them reach out and engage with the veterans, offering mentorship and support. It can also help veterans become more established in their communities.”

homegrown by heroes

Homegrown Craft Brews and Hop Yards

Tom Brewer is one of many veteran farmers currently utilizing the NEW MEXICO–Grown with Tradition®/Homegrown by Heroes logo.

Located at the edge of Los Ranchos de Albuquerque, Brewer is the owner and operator of Red Hat Hops.

Brewer enlisted in the Air Force during his senior year of high school, officially entering service in August 1985. He served his country for several years before transitioning to the Reserves and taking a position at Intel.

“I was hired at Intel in 1997,” Brewer says. “I worked there as a facilities tech specializing in chemicals and gasses until I was laid off in 2014. Suddenly, I was looking for a new career path.”

Realizing he could take his life in just about any direction, Brewer decided to take up farming – but not just any kind of farming.

“I love beer, which led me to start researching how to grow hops in 2015,” Brewer says.
In early 2016, he started a trial growth with 12 plants to see if the hops would thrive in New Mexico’s natural environment.

“It worked great,” Brewer says. “That’s when I decided to take the plunge and build a commercial- scale hop yard. Today, we have 10 varietals and have already hired our first employee.”

homegrown by heroes

Photo by Michael D. Tedesco

Heroes Continuing to Serve

Brewer discovered the Homegrown by Heroes label in the early days of researching what it would take to grow hops.

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“I came across the Farmer Veteran Coalition, and I think I was within the first 1,000 people to join,” Brewer says.

While he doesn’t use the logo for marketing since he deals directly with breweries, Brewer says he was thrilled to see NMDA partner with the Farmer Veteran Coalition for the new logo.

“When a veteran becomes a farmer, their service to their country continues,” Brewer says.

Only this time around, Brewer says, veterans are serving the country they defended by providing them with quality food and ingredients – and a delicious drink or two.