The Illinois Department of Agriculture (IDOA) is aiding veterans or current active duty service members who are interested in a second career in our state’s number one industry, agriculture. The Homegrown by Heroes program allows Illinois farmers, ranchers, fishermen and producers who have served or are still serving in any branch of the U.S. military to use a special logo on the agricultural products they sell to the public. This special designation sets these farmers apart in the market, allowing these heroes’ products to be visible to consumers while giving them the chance to tell their story.
“This statewide collaboration is intended to assist our veterans pursuing a second career in agriculture,” said Agriculture Director Raymond Poe. “There are great job opportunities in Illinois agriculture. If someone dreams of being a farmer, rancher, or producer, we want to help fulfil those dreams.”
“Many of the original Minutemen put aside their plows and picked up their muskets to defend our freedom and, still today, many of Illinois’ Citizen-Soldiers are also farmers,” said Maj. Gen. Richard J. Hayes, the Adjutant General of the Illinois National Guard. “This program is a way for citizens to recognize the service of men and women who have defended this nation and who also work the fields and orchards to feed families in Illinois and throughout the country.”
“In the last 10 years, almost a million of our military’s servicemen and servicewomen have come from rural communities. As these veterans return home, they bring with them an opportunity to employ their discipline, passion and sense of service to revitalize America’s small farms and rural communities. We commend the Illinois Department of Agriculture for continuing this wonderful program and assisting our Illinois Heroes,” said Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs Director Erica Jeffries.
The Homegrown by Heroes program is a free program for our veterans, with an annual renewal. To be eligible for the program, the veteran must provide proof of service, a letter of support from their commanding officer or a designated representative, and must maintain 50-percent or greater ownership in the business/operation.
For those who qualify, the Homegrown by Heroes Illinois Product logo can be used it to identify and market their Illinois grown and Illinois made products on packaging, signage, websites and social media or wherever their items are being sold.
Thanks to the Department’s partnership with various agencies and organization, such as Illinois Farm Bureau, Farmer Veteran Coalition (FVC), Illinois National Guard, and Illinois Veterans Affairs, training and education also are components of the initiative, which will make informational resources available to veterans desiring to farm in the state. These programs will:
· Develop mentorships between experienced farmers and veterans;
· Identify community land access that benefits beginning farmers and saves municipalities’ maintenance costs;
· Locate farmers’ market opportunities and partnerships;
· Assist veterans in developing value-added products;
· Foster relationships with retailers and food service organizations.
How to Apply:
o Step 2: Register with the Illinois Department of Agriculture
Complete the Homegrown By Heroes Products Logo Application
Veterans can provide their certificate or certification letter from Farmer Veteran
Coalition to the IDOA as verification that they have been certified as a veteran to
use the HBH label.