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Helping Veterans Become Farmers

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Posted: Friday, August 11, 2017 10:30 am | Updated: 7:55 pm, Mon Aug 14, 2017.

Redland Ahead

John Mills is the founding father and president of the Redland Ahead Program in South Dade that offers free farming industry training to veterans. The program offers hands on experience in growing row crops, grove management-production and animal husbandry. Redland Ahead works closely with the University of Florida’s Trec Program, UF Ag Extension Center and FIU, which writes grants for funding from the USDA.

John, an Army vet, is no stranger to the hard work involved in farming. He has been producing groves on part of the 125 acres under his control. In 2014, with his love of the soil and his devotion to returning vets, he founded Redland Ahead. To date, 106 vets have entered the program with 26 now in training. The vets learn many skills, and then decide whether agriculture is in their blood.

If they wish to continue on their own, further guidance is offered. Farmland generally rents for close to $1,000 per acre for a year, but through the program land might be available for as little as $400 per acre.

In conjunction to grants, funds are raised through auctions of donated items that are on display at the Historic Redland Farm Life School building on 248th street. Pick up for donating items can be scheduled be calling (305) 992-2769. They will even take items in need of simple repair. Did you miss their latest auction? Their next one is September 16-17 in conjunction with a Trail Riders Event. Management of the facility is under the direction of Tyra (305) 992-2769 who in the growing season runs a Farmers Market on the school grounds.

There is another side to John as he works with noted animal trainer Lourdes Edlin. Lourdes, owner of Action Pack is well known for her work at Miami Seaquarium and Monkey Jungle. She has trained “Big Cats,” not the Garfield type from the comics, but lions and tigers. She serves as Vice-President of Development for Redland Ahead. Working with John, several dogs have been taught to sniff out plant diseases long before visible detection is apparent, thus successful treatment can be applied. It is not uncommon to see one of these three dogs in a local avocado groves detecting Laural Wilt Disease. Thus, a 95% affective treatment program can be administered to a specific tree and those in the surrounding area. Without early detection less than 50% of infected trees respond to treatment. Plans are being arranged for a Hawaiian trip to sniff out a fungus on the Ohia Tree. which is the foundation tree in their forest.

Recently the Rotary Club of Homestead sponsored a golf tournament to raise money for the Redland Ahead Program. The event netted $4,800, which was given, in full, to this fine organization. You too can be a part of helping our veterans interested in possible careers in agriculture by donating goods, time and training. Check them out at redlandahead.org

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