Extension educators assist veterans through Vets to Ag program

You may have heard news reports about the difficulty veterans have finding employment when they come back from serving our country overseas. Vets to Ag addresses this problem. The Michigan State University Institute of Agricultural Technology (IAT) coordinates this unique program that trains homeless veterans to work in agriculture. Experts from MSU faculty and staff including Extension and the W. K. Kellogg Biological Station as well as experts from the private sector deliver the program.

Training includes topics such as basic plant and soil science, equipment and workplace safety, equipment operation, computer skills, integrated pest management and even Michigan-certified pesticide applicator exam preparation. In addition, sessions cover specific training in a broad range of agricultural industries.

The current Vets to Ag session focuses on meat processing.

Tom Smith, associate director of the IAT and director of Vets to Ag, contacted Michigan State University Extension health and nutrition educators Rita Klavinski and Jeannie Nichols to lend their expertise by teaching ServSafe as part of the meat-processing session.

MSU Extension offers ServSafe, a national certification program for those working in food service, specifically managers and other leaders. ServSafe teaches about foodborne illnesses and food safety. The course provides participants education to successfully pass the ServSafe Food Protection Manager Certification exam. Good for five years, the certificate can be used in any sector of the food industry.

The two educators taught the 16-hour curriculum to the vets Feb. 11 and 13 at the Kellogg Biological Station. Participants took a 90-question national exam.

Rita shared that for many of the participants it had been a long time since they had taken a test.

“The group was very engaged and motivated to learn the materials and appreciative of our time spent teaching them the content, which was new to many of them. This was a great opportunity to share MSUE expertise from the food safety team with a specific audience,” Rita said.

All 11 of the participants passed the ServSafe exam.

View this blog written by a participant in Vets to Ag. You can get a good idea of the scope of the program.

Vets to Ag was developed in partnership with the Veterans’ Services Division of the Michigan Workforce Development Agency and is supported by local Michigan Works! Agencies, state and local veteran’s services organizations, and shelters that serve homeless veterans. I encourage each of us to explore how we can provide valuable education programming to returning veterans in other ways as a way of showing our support for their dedicated service.

Read more here.

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