Feb. 16 2012 06:00 AM

Unique program synergizes veterans, education, and agriculture.

Patriotism shined bright at the Ag Warriors Gala at World Ag Expo in Tulare, Calif., last evening. It marked the official launch of the International Agri-Center's Ag Warriors Program which will benefit returning veterans by placing them in long-term professions in agriculture.

The evening opened with a beautiful rendition of the National Anthem by New York City's "singing policeman," Daniel Rodriguez. Grammy-award winning Michael Peterson served as emcee. He is a past recipient of the distinguished Bob Hope "Spirit of Hope" Award for his service to the nation and to servicemen and women of the Armed Forces. The Ag Warriors orchestra entertained the crowd, and videos showcasing the various branches of the U.S. military appeared on two large screens. All of these activities led to the keynote address from former President George W. Bush. Attendees enjoyed an evening of storytelling and learned of the guiding principle that helped this former president through one of the most challenging times in American history.

The Ag Warriors program is assisted by California State University, Fresno; California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo; College of the Sequoias; and West Hills College Coalinga. Returning veterans will receive training that will prepare them for careers in agriculture. The program is an in-residence course which will include class work, field work, exam preparation, testing, mentorship, and internships. It is designed to expose returning veterans to the broader aspects of the agriculture industry and to help them gain access to long-term and sustainable careers. Veterans bring real-world experience in engineering, science, and leadership – all of which are needed in agriculture and beyond.

"We believe the agricultural community is well suited to provide jobs to returning veterans," said Jerry Sinift, CEO of the International Agri-Center. "Many of our friends in agriculture have expressed a need for bright, motivated and hard-working individuals to join their teams - Ag Warriors will be the conduit that connects employers with veterans in search of careers in agriculture."

As shared at the event, the participation of the International Agri-Center, the educational institutions, and the veterans themselves, will create results with far greater impact than the individual abilities of each contributor alone. Veterans are twice as likely as their peers to succeed, and in combining them with agriculture, success is guaranteed.

Congratulations to the International Agri-Center on this trail-blazing program. We look forward to the far-reaching benefits it will provide to veterans, the agriculture community, and all those who rely on food and fiber to survive.

To learn more, visit AgWarriors.com.