AgriLife Extension’s BattleGround to Breaking Ground program now taking applications

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Applications for Cohort 13 of the Battleground to Breaking Ground program will be accepted through Dec. 5, said program coordinators.

BattleGround to Breaking Ground participants on farm tour. Gathered around the seed boxes on a planter being pulled by a larger tractor
Participants on a farm tour during the four-phase BattleGround to Breaking Ground program of the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. The program focuses on active-duty and veteran military members but is also open to beginning farmers and ranchers. (Texas A&M AgriLife photo)

The application cost is $10. To apply, go to https://tx.ag/Cohort13Registration. Once at the registration link, enter “Add to Cart.” When a new page appears, choose the “Add an Account” option located under the “Log In” bar and fill in the request.

A live applicant webinar will be held on the Zoom platform from 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. on Oct. 19. To register for the webinar, go to: https://tx.ag/Oct19BGTBG.

About the BattleGround to Breaking Ground program

The BattleGround to Breaking Ground Project is a four-phase educational program of the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service available to veterans, active-duty military and their families, as well as other beginning farmers and ranchers.

“This project provides online education, hands-on training, disability support services, mentorships, peer support and veteran transition support,” said Erin Kimbrough, BattleGround to Breaking Ground program manager, Bryan-College Station. “Participants learn how to develop a business plan and access funding for an agricultural operation.”

Kimbrough said they have created a program brief detailing the relevance, phases and benefits of the program.

She said a Beginning Farmer Rancher Development Program grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture will make it possible for the program to continue through 2024.

Program improvements, benefits

The program has made improvements to better serve limited-experience participants by adding an in-person, five-day boot camp and launching the registered BattleGround to Breaking Ground SkillBridge program for transitioning military members.

BattleGround to Breaking Ground cohort class
While the BattleGround to Breaking Ground program is focused on active-duty and veteran military service members, this cohort also will be adding some tuition-waived slots for non-military participants. (Texas A&M AgriLife photo by Erin Kimbrough)

Kimbrough said while the BattleGround to Breaking Ground program will remain predominantly for active-duty and veteran military service members wanting to become involved in production agriculture, each cohort also will be adding some tuition-waived slots for non-military participants.

“The program also helps support the success and sustainability of all new and beginning farmers and ranchers by offering stipends to program graduates and through its BattleGround to Breaking Ground Mentor Training Program that pays mentors to train other program participants,” she said.

Veteran and active-duty graduates of Phase 3 are eligible for a $1,000 stipend to start or expand their agriculture enterprise. Graduates of the Phase 4 Mentor Training Program are eligible for a $1,100 stipend for providing 100 hands-on training hours to regular participants. They are also eligible for $4,400 per Skillbridge participant when they provide around 400 hands-on learning hours through that program.

Since spring 2017, more than 1,000 participants have been served through the BattleGround to Breaking Ground program. About three-fourths of participants are military veterans, and program graduates are eligible for additional funding.

“Additionally, 100% of program graduates have started or expanded agricultural operations and more than 97% expect to benefit economically from the information gained through the program,” Kimbrough said.

Tuition waiver and key dates

The program includes applications to waive the $600 tuition for Phase 2 of the program. If participants complete all Phase 2 requirements by the established deadlines, submit a complete business plan by week 16 and actively participate in all program activities, they may also be eligible to have the $900 tuition waived for Phase 3 of the program.

Successful applicants for Cohort 13 who enter the program on a tuition-free basis will need to register and attend the basic training course in person. Basic Training registration fee of $125 applies to all tuition-waived participants.

Participants have the option to pay the tuition to skip the application process — a requirement to attend Basic Training in-person — and will be allowed to complete their hands-on hours with a mentor of their choosing.

Key dates for the cohort are:

  • Oct. 19 from 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m., — Applicant webinar. https://tx.ag/Oct19BGTBG
  • Dec. 5 at 5 p.m. — Tuition-waived application deadline for Cohort 13.  
  • Dec 30 — Paid tuition due. 
  • Jan. 9-13: Phase 1 Bootcamp in College Station. Phase 2 participants will be able to attend Bootcamp if they want to but will be required to attend Basic Training. Basic Training and Bootcamp will run concurrently.
  • Jan. 12-13 — Basic training in College Station  
  • Jan. 2 — Phase 2 course opens 

Questions about the BattleGround to Breaking Ground Program can be sent to txagrability@ag.tamu.edu.

There are two ways to access the program: 

Option 1: Tuition Waived Option (Application Required)

Through various USDA-funded grants, the BGBG program is able to provide 15 tuition-waived spots per cohort for veterans, active military, and a select number of other beginning farmers and ranchers. Applications for a tuition waiver are now open on a rolling basis.  

Applicants can click HERE to access the application, which is due June 2nd, 2023, at 5 PM CST

Option 2: Tuition Paid 

This option enables any veteran, active military, and beginning farmer or rancher to pay the full tuition, skip the application process and bypass the in-person requirements. Registration and payment for Cohort 12 Phase 2 will be available HERE and will be due June 30th, 2023. 

I have attached some BattleGround to Breaking Ground materials to help potential participants understand the program in depth. Please refer to our website if you have any questions about the program or our other services and be sure to join our newsletter to receive future announcements. Feel free to email me if you have any questions regarding the application process.