By Alex Keith
Sponsored by the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, Kentucky Proud launched Homegrown by Heroes in 2013 to support veterans of the U.S. Military by encouraging successful careers in agriculture and promoting the purchase of veteran-grown produce.
Like Kentucky veteran-farmer and Homegrown by Heroes participant Paul Dengel, nearly half of all veterans hail from rural farming communities. Growing up on a small cattle farm in Wisconsin, Dengel remembers, “We raised beef cattle for the livestock auction and grew vegetables for subsistence.”
Homegrown by Heroes provided the incentive for Dengel and other veterans to turn to a career as challenging and physical as military life.
“You just learn how to adapt in the military. You learn how to find a good mental space. Part of the hard part about farming is it can be grueling, repetitive, and trying. You find that good mental space to be in and get the job the done.”
Placing veterans in careers in agriculture, Homegrown by Heroes looks to guarantee the success of small, independent farmers with a marketing initiative, affording Kentucky veteran-farmers the ability to brand their products with the Homegrown by Heroes logo on their agriculture products.
Placed on farm or agribusiness signage as well as agricultural products, the logo serves not only to identify the products as locally grown by veterans, but also as incentive to consumers to support veterans when making purchases at the grocery store, the farmer’s market, and even online. The logo gives small veteran farmers an edge on the competition in a marketplace dominated by large-scale producers, differentiating themselves and their products. “I’d never sold to a market on my own before, and with the label I was able to take a seed all the way to market,” said Dengel. “I’d never had that opportunity before and that label helped me get my feet wet in farming for myself.”