Rooted in service: The Veterans Agricultural Education and Apprenticeship Program

March 22, 2024

The initiative supports veterans pursuing successful careers in food, agricultural and green industry sectors.

Participants holding heads of lettuce

Participants of the Veterans Agricultural Education and Apprenticeship Program on a tour of the UA Controlled Environment Agriculture Center.


Leaving the military can be challenging. United States veterans have sacrificed to secure our country, but when their service is complete, many find returning to civilian life difficult. Hoping to help make reentry to the workforce easier for veterans, College of Agriculture, Life and Environmental Sciences faculty partnered with Agriculture and Apex Applied Technology, Inc., and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture to develop the Veterans Agricultural Education and Apprenticeship Program (VAEAP). This immersive program provides veterans with all the necessary training to pursue careers in the agricultural and green industry sectors.

“I’m a lifelong educator. It’s great that I can share my knowledge and help somebody in their growth,” said Ed Franklin, an associate professor at the Department of Agricultural Education, Technology, and Innovation. “These folks have made a sacrifice, and this is an opportunity to give back.”

The VAEAP provides digital and hands-on training and helps connect veterans with internship opportunities at host farms throughout the state. The program also offers business development and financial education opportunities to jumpstart veteran careers.

“It’s really good information for them, especially for business owners,” said Trent Teegerstrom, senior associate director at the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics. “We’re not just teaching about the green industry. We’re doing whatever we can to get the right tools, programs, and information to get the business started.”

A new crop of heroes
Program participants at the Maricopa Cooperative Extension

VAEAP participants at the Maricopa Cooperative Extension office where they toured the People's Demonstration Farm and attended a workshop on plant propagation.

A notable characteristic of farm operators across the nation is their relatively advanced age. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, in 2022, the average age of all farm producers was 58 years, with a 12 percent increase from 2017 in producers over the age of 65.

“People are retiring and we're going to start seeing some real consequences from that in the next few years,” said Sofia Montes, project manager at Apex Applied Technology. “Veterans are uniquely suited for agricultural work. They have a lot of skills they develop through their military service.”

Military service members and veterans currently account for 9 percent of farm producers across the nation. The VAEAP seeks to increase opportunities for veteran farmers to help them fill roles that keep America’s food supply secure.

The program is free, flexible, and open now to all Arizona veterans. Visit the VAEAP webpage to learn more.