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“Growing Farmers” and Helping Vets at the Great Park

Posted: 08 May 2013 05:00 AM PDT

“It’s about serving everybody in the community….A local food system makes a lot of sense to me because the money stays in that local community and we can create jobs, thousands of jobs. As we talk today we are losing rural farm lands, and we’re losing rural farmers. So what we need to do is grow farmers…train farmers to be able to farm a different kind of way.”

“The UN stated in 2010 that the only way we end world hunger is local food systems.”

–Will Allen, Urban Farmer and MacArthur Genius Grant Recipient

In a radio interview, urban farmer Will Allen stated that we are losing farmers at a rapid rate. Of course, we need farmers to grow much of our food, so Allen has a solution: We need to “grow farmers.”  Allen also states that conventional farms will continue to be part of the mix but that we also need to develop more urban farms. (Urban farms have many variations. For example, they might involve intensive growing of produce on small plots such as school yards, rooftops, and former vacant lots. They may, or may not, include animals.) Fortunately, urban farming is an occupation that many in the younger age bracket find appealing.

Growing more urban farmers is just what is happening at the Orange County Great Park. The Great Park’s Veteran’s Agricultural Learning – Opportunities & Resources (VALOR) Program is helping to develop more farmers as well as train vets for a new career. Here are some details about the VALOR Program:

The Great Park VALOR Program is open to veterans from any service branch and contains two main components. The first component is classroom and field work at the Orange County Great Park. The second component consists of field work at the Irvine Ranch Conservancy. The first VALOR Program was set to start last fall and end in the middle of this month (mid-May 2013). Originally, six applicants were to be accepted into the first round of this program, but the applicant number was reduced to two. 

As stated on the Great Park website, additional facets of the VALOR Program are as follows:

• An 8 month program, beginning Monday, September 10, 2012 through Mid-May 2013
• 800 hours of paid internship with the City of Irvine
• 12 core sections of study
• A.G. Kawamura, Former Secretary for the California Department of Food & Agriculture, acts as the main instructor
• Instruction and mentorship provided by the Orange County Farm Bureau and other industry professionals
• 30 continuing education units
• Certificate of Completion from Brandman University, part of the Chapman University System
For additional information, contact the Farmer-Veteran Coalition at or (530) 756-1395.
An interesting side note:  The Urban Farm Magazine’s editorial, production, and corporate office is located in Irvine.


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