Helping military veterans market their agricultural products, Homegrown by Heroes (HBH) is a branding program administered through the Farmer Veteran Coalition (FVC), based in Davis, Calif. The program, created by the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, helps participating farmers, ranchers, fishermen and value-added producers stand out in the marketplace as their products feature the HBH logo, making it easy for consumers to see who they are supporting.
“Less than 1 percent of our population serves in the military now, and that’s a pretty small number,” says Michael O’Gorman, executive director of the FVC. “People want to support them. The public is anxious to give something back to those who have given so much.”
The Ohio Proud marketing program, which is managed by the Ohio Department of Agriculture and works to help consumers across the state identify agricultural products that are at least 50 percent made, grown or processed in Ohio, partnered with HBH in 2014. To date, HBH has eight registered farms in Ohio, and two of those are also Ohio Proud members.
“As partners join the Ohio Proud program, we ask them if they are a veteran, and if so, we encourage them to also join the HBH program,” says Lori Panda, senior program manager of Ohio Proud and specialty crop block grant programs.
To participate in HBH, members must have veteran, active duty, National Guard or Reserve member of the U.S. Armed Forces status. With their service characterized as Honorable or General, veterans must provide a copy of their Department of Defense Form 214 or equivalent, and active duty members are required to provide a letter of support from their commanding officer or designated representative.
In addition, all members must maintain at least 50 percent veteran ownership and at least 50 percent greater veteran management control. All products certified under the HBH label should contain at least 50 percent non-water ingredients produced by HBH certified producers.
However, O’Gorman says there are no specific farming practices or methods required for participation, and all sizes and types of farms are welcome to join the HBH program.
“Veterans fought for our freedom, so we honor their freedom and judgment in choosing the best way to farm that they see fit,” O’Gorman says.
Scott and Jean Bush, owners of the 82-acre Bush Valley Farm near Zanesville, joined HBH in early 2015 after they began selling pork and lamb directly to consumers. The farm was one of the first farms in Ohio to be certified through the HBH program.
“What intrigued us most about HBH was the marketing aspect,” Scott Bush says. “Specifically, we like the ability to use the logo because we’re doing sales off the farm.”
The couple met in the Air Force; Jean served for four years, while Scott served for six years. Scott then went into the Air Force Reserve and served for 29 years, until he retired. After several years of marriage, the pair realized they both had a passion for agriculture, and they purchased their farm in 1998. Once they completed restoration work on their property, they began breeding and raising livestock, and today they pasture raise Katahdin sheep, Narragansett turkeys, large black hogs and chickens.
In the future, the Bushes plan to expand their direct sales business, and they hope to continue providing local meats to area consumers.
“Farming’s not an easy career to come into,” O’Gorman says. “To do this after serving in the military is kind of like a second service, and we just want to do everything we can to support them.”