In observance of Veterans’ Day on Nov. 11, 2015, Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding congratulated United States Army veteran and Penn State University professor Dr. Connie Baggett for his contributions to agriculture and his service to our nation. Dr. Baggett is also project director for AgrAbility for Pennsylvanians Project, a grant-funded program to assist farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural workers with disabilities or long-term health conditions by providing the resources and support they need to live independently and continue in production agriculture.
“Two percent of the population feeds us and two percent protect us,” said Redding. “Dr. Baggett is among those rare individuals who do both. Through his work at Penn State, Dr. Baggett is introducing students to the opportunities agriculture affords each of us. Dr. Baggett also served in the United States Army in both Vietnam and Germany. As we prepare to observe Veterans’ Day, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Dr. Baggett for his service to our country and for the work he has undertaken to teach the next generation of agriculturalists.”
The department has undertaken a workforce development initiative to help identify the talent pool of individuals who can enter careers in agriculture. The department is also pinpointing the available training programs to prepare individuals for entry into the agriculture workforce. There will be an estimated 75,000 job openings in the industry in the next decade. Part of the department’s work includes connecting with non-traditional employees, including veterans, who can bring additional skills to the workforce.
“The individuals who keep our country safe provide us with so much,” Redding added. “When returning home, many veterans continue to serve by entering the field of agriculture — or, in Dr. Baggett’s case, teaching individuals about the opportunities the industry has to offer. Dr. Baggett and each of our farmer veterans are to be commended for all they do to care and provide for each of us.”
Late this summer, the department announced the Homegrown By Heroes (HBH) initiative. HBH is the official farmer veteran branding program of America. The HBH logo serves to inform consumers that products donning the logo were produced by military veterans. The program is available to farmers, ranchers, fishermen, and value-added producers of all branches and eras of military service. Several states have officially partnered with Homegrown By Heroes to promote the HBH label. PA Preferred™, the official state branding program used to identify locally-sourced agricultural products made and grown in Pennsylvania, worked with HBH to combine the PA Preferred and HBH logos to give the state’s farmer veterans the point of sale visibility needed to be successful in the marketplace. The label provides the consumer with a tangible way to support veterans and an avenue to share their stories.
In recognition of the 50th anniversary of the New Farmers of America (NFA) merging with FFA, Dr. Baggett was recently asked to speak and to sing the NFA Boys Song at the 88th National FFA Convention in Louisville. The NFA, a national organization for African-American agriculture students, was founded in 1935 in Tuskegee, Alabama. In 1965, the organization merged with FFA. Dr. Baggett is a former member of the NFA and is currently an associate professor of agricultural extension education in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences.
For more information about the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, visit www.agriculture.pa.gov.