Welcome 2019 Greenhands!

by Oct 1, 2019

Our nation has a long history of welcoming our troops home and bringing them back into a life where they can work and study out of harm’s way. We are honored to provide a unique career opportunity to these four outstanding veterans as they embark on their life’s next chapter.

Today we announced the members of the second class of our Warriors to Farmers Training Program at Hope Farms. Four outstanding military veterans have been selected for this unique program which will prepare them to successfully operate their own urban farm and help us solve widespread food inequity issues in Houston and beyond. The 2019 cohort includes (pictured above with me at Tyler Froberg) Oriana Franklin, Samuel MacCammon, Stephan “Miles” Cook and Linda Stafford.

Our Hope Farms farmer training program is meant to expand the urban farming footprint in Houston and other cities and by doing so, make healthy, affordable food more accessible to all citizens. During their 2,000 hours of training at Hope Farms, veterans will learn how to utilize small-scale, intensive organic growing methods to maximize and optimize the production of fruits and vegetables and earn a good living to support their families on a micro urban farm. Houston’s year-round growing season affords the veteran trainees with unique opportunities to understand and experience a robust four-season diversified fruit and vegetable farm, including planting and cultivation, pest, disease and weed management, irrigation, compost systems, harvest and post-harvest handling, quality control, poultry and egg production, beehives management and honey production. Veteran participants will also learn operational aspects of product sales and distribution including running an on-site farm stand, CSA programs, restaurant sales, and farmers market sales. Thanks to a grant from the USDA, veterans selected for the program are given the year-long, 2,000 hours of training free of charge, awarded a monthly living stipend and may earn bonuses through the year for exceeding expectations.

Upon completion, trained veterans qualify to join our Hope Farms Co-op, which will market and distribute their crops and they may also benefit from our Business Incubator Program, which will provides land acquisition support, access to equipment and two years of operational advice. This support is designed to ensure their fledgling farm businesses thrive.

The 2019 cohort reflects a cross section of military service and deployment. Each member has had life-changing experiences while serving our country. All of them expressed a common, overarching reason for seeking the Warriors to Farmers grant award: to help bring healthy food to others as they reacclimatize to civilian life while overcoming their war-time traumas. Studies by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs have shown that programs such as the Farmers Veteran Training Program at Recipe for Success have led to improvement and positively impacted physical and mental health of veterans, who have reported a reduction in anxiety, depression and pain.

The 2019 Warriors to Farmers Cohort

Stephan “Miles” Cook served in the United States Army for 11.5 years after graduating from the University of Houston with a Bachelor of Science in human resources development. Cook became interested in becoming an urban food grower after spending time on an urban farm. Up for the challenge, his goal is to become a diversified herb producer.

Oriana Franklin served five years in the United States Army after graduating from San Jacinto College with an associate’s degree in applied science. Franklin has installed many green spaces around the country while working with Mission Continues and has a deep understanding of non-profit operations. She was present at the 2016 groundbreaking of Hope Farms and is looking forward to gaining a greater understanding of day-to-day farm operations.

Samuel MacCammon graduated from The United States Military Academy at West Point with a Bachelor of Science in international law with a concentration in environmental engineering. He served for six years in the United States Army and has worked in supply management for the past three years. A career change to urban agriculture is aligned with MacCammon’s interest in sustainable food production and feeding local communities.

Linda Stafford graduated from American InterContinental University with an associate degree in business administration and served for 14 years in the United States Army. Stafford has always felt at peace in the outdoors, with many of her fondest childhood memories tied to working in her mother’s garden, which led her to pursue this unique career opportunity in urban farming.

Funded by the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, the Hope Farms Warriors to Farmers program is available exclusively to veterans and rooted in a hands-on curriculum comprised of horticulture, crop planning, enterprise and supply chain management, farm accounting and marketing and business planning to introduce urban farming and profitable business operations.