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Governor McAuliffe Announces Partnership to Promote Virginia’s Farmer Veterans

~ Combined Virginia Grown and Homegrown By Heroes logo will be used to market Virginia’s veteran-grown products to consumers ~

PETERSBURG – Governor Terry McAuliffe today announced a new statewide marketing program to give Virginia farmers who have served in the military the opportunity to participate in a national branding campaign in partnership with the Farmer Veteran Coalition (FVC). The new combined Virginia Grown and Homegrown By Heroes (HBH) logo will inform consumers that products with the logo were produced by Virginia’s military veterans and will serve as an extra incentive to consumers when buying local farm products. The program is available to Virginia farmers, ranchers, fishermen, and value-added producers of all branches and eras of military service.

“Our military veterans have selflessly served the Commonwealth and our nation, and providing them with a way to differentiate their agricultural products in the marketplace makes good business sense,” said Governor McAuliffe. “As the state with the fastest-growing veteran population in the country, we are determined to also be the most veteran-friendly. By offering these heroes new resources to develop and market their farm businesses, we will ensure economic opportunities for them to support their families and stay in the Commonwealth, while contributing to this $70 billion local industry.”

Speaking about the new partnership, Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Basil Gooden added, “This program is a great opportunity for our service members to market their agricultural products to a larger audience. Veterans already have such a diverse skill set and agriculture offers numerous job opportunities.”

“Virginia Grown is proud to have members of the military as part of the program,” said Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Sandy Adams. “With this new distinction, we are supporting those who have served our country, and who will continue to serve by providing quality agricultural products to Virginians.”

“Virginians have a long and proud history of serving in our nation’s military. One of our primary missions at the Virginia Department of Veterans Services is to honor our veterans and help them make a successful transition to civilian life. It is gratifying to see so many of these veterans returning to their rural communities to engage in farming,” said Virginia Department of Veterans Services (VDVS) Commissioner John L. Newby II. “The Homegrown By Heroes program will give all Virginians the opportunity to say thank you to those who defended our freedom.”

Consumers and businesses purchasing agricultural products should expect to see this logo at the point-of-purchase and on business signage, enabling them to select products that support Virginia’s farmer veterans. Farmer veterans may have their products certified under the HBH label. Farmer training and education also are large components of the initiative, which will make informational resources available to veterans wanting to farm in Virginia. Some of these opportunities may be coordinated by the FVC of Virginia chapter, which officially launched today.

To be eligible for the Virginia Grown Homegrown By Heroes logo, the producer must meet all Virginia Grown criteria, in addition to the following:

• Have veteran, active duty, National Guard or Reserve member of the U.S. Armed Forces status, without regard to age or era of duty;
• Provide a copy of their Department of Defense Form 214 or equivalent;
• Have characterization of service of Honorable or General (under Honorable conditions);
• Provide a letter of support from their commanding officer or designated representative attesting to their service under honorable conditions if they are an active duty member;
• Maintain 50 percent or greater veteran ownership of their business or operation and 50 percent or greater veteran management control; and,
• Have 50 percent or more non-water ingredients produced by HBH certified producers for products certified under the label.

VDACS’ Virginia Grown program is a marketing tool promoting fresh, local products to consumers and has a proven track record for increasing visibility, developing additional media attention, and enhancing marketing opportunities for Virginia Grown products.

The FVC is the nation’s premier non-profit organization focused on the veterans-to-agriculture movement and administers the HBH label which helps identify products that are grown and raised by our farmer veterans. With more than 1,000 FVC members enrolled in HBH nationwide, many of these farmer veterans realize a premium on their products with a combined total of over $50 million in annual sales.