By Lauren Moore, Farm Service Agency Public Affairs Specialist
Eric Grandon never thought he would be a farmer.
After joining the Army at 19, he served in four peace-time missions in the Middle East and two combat missions, Operations Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom. After retiring from his military service, he was introduced to the Veterans and Warriors Agriculture program, through the West Virginia Department of Agriculture, and eventually opened an agricultural operation of his own.
“I’ve only been farming for four years. When I retired from the National Guard, I had Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and I didn’t do anything for two years,” said Grandon. “I met James McCormick, the director of the Veterans and Warriors Agriculture program, and he recommended that I try agriculture. I loved it.”
Grandon and his wife, Mary, bought his father-in-law’s farm in Clay County, West Virginia, started producing molasses and named it “Sugar Bottom Farm.”
“Now we grow almost everything you would find on salad bar: romaine lettuce, grape tomatoes, cucumbers, green onions, mini sweet peppers, snap peas, rainbow carrots, slicing tomatoes, broccoli, and cabbage,” said Grandon. “We also grow watermelon, strawberries, raspberries and blueberries, but my favorite thing to grow is honeybees.”
The mission of the USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) is to equitably serve all farmers, ranchers, and agricultural partners through the delivery of effective, efficient agricultural programs. Since opening his operation, Grandon has participated in a variety of FSA farm programs and loan programs.
“Farming is not only hard work, but it’s also a risky business. That’s where the FSA and all of their programs come into play,” he said.
FSA provides eligible farmers and ranchers with credit through various farm loan programs. Grandon started with an FSA Microloan. He also covers his eligible crops annually through the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP).
“When I got my microloan, I learned how easy it is to qualify for NAP,” Grandon said. “The best thing is that it’s free to beginning farmers, like myself.”
Like many West Virginia producers, the Grandon family was impacted by flash flooding in 2016, losing their summer crops and 18 beehives.
“Again, it was the FSA to my rescue. I was educated about their Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honey Bees, and Farm-raised Fish Program (ELAP), which helped with compensation for not only the bees, but the hives too,” he said.
Grandon dedicates some of his time to educate aspiring beekeepers. Since opening a free training program in March 2017, he has had over 300 visits from people wanting to learn the trade. He also offers a free adopt-a-hive program for people who want to work bees, but don’t have access to land.
“Farming has given me a chance to look ahead to next year, and the year after that, like never before. In any other job that I’ve worked the only thing I thought about was the weekend or my next vacation,” said Grandon. “I absolutely love farming.”
For more information about FSA farm programs and loan programs, contact your local FSA office or visit www.fsa.usda.gov. To find your local FSA office, visit http://offices.usda.gov.