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Frontline to Farm Training in Boone for its Third Year to Benefit Veterans

Dr. Anne Fanatico and 2023 training participants working with Cory Bryk farm host and owner/operator of New Life Farm

For three years, Frontline to Farm has brought veterans transitioning from military to sustainable farming to the High Country for training with area agricultural and business experts and farm hosts. The program is an interdisciplinary collaboration of faculty in Appalachian State’s Departments of Sustainable Development and Communication and is funded by a NIFA Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program with support from local organizations Disabled American Veterans Chapter 90, American Legion Post #130, and Military Officer’s Association High Country Chapter, Sunrise Rotary, and AgSouth Farm Credit. It is truly a community-based event.

Beginning farmer veterans will be treated to a week of morning classes and afternoon farm visits, while Alumni of the program will be returning for a two-day training including the opportunity to work one-on-one with farm consultants. According to Eddy Labus, former Watauga County Extension Agent and current Appalachian Regional Office Sustainable Agriculture Agent, farming offers benefits to anyone but especially to veterans, but making a living farming has its challenges. Frontline to Farm Co-Directors, Dr. Anne Fanatico and Dr. Lynn Gibbard have designed the training to include technical and business support, as well as mental health awareness and the opportunity for networking and building community connections. Both Labus and Gibbard are veterans.

Daniel Brown, owner/operator of Browns Farm Ridge and farm host speaking with 2023 training participants

The work of small and medium-sized family farms is critical as the US faces an aging farmer population and loss of farmland. North Carolina ranks at the top states losing farmland to development., which impacts food access and equity, especially in rural areas. 

Participants will collaborate with local ag operations such as Shipley Farms, Browns Farm Ridge, New Life Farm, Springhouse Farm, and others to give farmer veterans a hands-on learning experience. Shipley Farms hosts a farm dinner on the final night of the training providing participants, trainers, farm hosts, consultants, and community supporters the opportunity to network and build lasting connections.

Cory Bryk, owner/operator of New Life Farm, Marine Veteran, Appalachian Alumnus, and Frontline to Farm partner will be hosting training participants for his third year in a row. Bryk says that the staff of Frontline to Farm who put together and organize these events help benefit his farm and also the greater community of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and noted that “anything worth doing requires a cohesive team with diverse areas of expertise.” Bryk, a farmer veteran himself, recognizes veteran’s leadership skills make them a natural fit for farming.

This is the fourth year that Frontline to Farm will run training, and its third year in person. One training alumni stated that “the legal, financial and business planning aspects of the workshop have saved me a lot of money and will greatly increase my farm’s profitability. The farm tours were super helpful and allowed me to see and get ideas of different ways to farm and generate income.”

Female farmer veteran 2023 training participants with farm host Amy Fiedler of Springhouse Farm 

Partnerships with local organizations such as F.A.R.M. Cafe, Stick Boy Bread Company, Appalachian Mountain Brewery, 10 High Country Lanes, Food Lion, and others has helped make the training possible with donations while members of the Blue Star Mothers of the High Country and community member Mary Irish have provided home-baked snacks. According to Gibbard, “If anyone ever needed evidence of how people can come together to serve others, they only have to look at the generosity of those who have helped support the work of Frontline to Farm. We are forever grateful.”

Shipley Farms owner Bob Shipley hosting trainees and community at the 2022 farm dinner after a tour of the farm and Watauga Butchery

Those who’d like to support Frontline to Farm, Farmer Veterans, and sustainable farming can contact Lynn Gibbard at frontlinetofarm@appstate.edu or visit frontlinetofarm.appatate.edu to donate and become part of our mission. Follow Frontline to Farm on Facebook and Instagram for updates and to join our community.

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About Frontline to Farm

Frontline to Farm, a program of Appalachian State University’s College of Fine and Applied

Arts, aids veterans with the transition to civilian life by teaching sustainable farming practices

through a grant from USDA/NIFA Beginning Farmer Rancher Development Program (#2020-

49400-32301). Dr. Anne Fanatico and Dr. Lynn Gibbard spearheaded the USDA National

Institute of Food and Agriculture-funded program. Frontline to Farm is a collaborative effort

between the Department of Sustainable Development and the Department of Communication.

Eddy Labus, National Center for Appropriate Technology, is a partner in the program and a key

part of the training. The Frontline to Farm program also works to support sustainable gardening

on campus and in the community through its Victory Garden project, a re-imagining of the

WWII Victory Garden that focuses on food security, food and farm equity, the environment, and

connecting farmers with their communities and is developing a renewable energy project.

To find out more about Frontline to Farm, visit our website:

www.FrontlinetoFarm.appstate.edu

Follow us on social media to keep up to date on all our programs and participants.