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Halifax County’s Hudson Heritage Farms first in state to earn certification

Hudson Heritage Farms, LLC in the Elmo community has become the first farm in Virginia to be accepted and certified by the Farmer Veteran Coalition’s national Homegrown by Heroes program and label. 

The Farmer Veteran Coalition is a nonprofit headquartered in Davis, California, formed in 2009 and incorporated in 2011 to mobilize veterans to feed America. 

Hudson Heritage Farms, LLC is a small family farm owned and operated by Denise S. and David Ray Hudson who are both veterans of the United States Air Force and Army National Guard.

They both began their military career in the Air Force in the mid 70s before joining the Air Force Reserve and then the Army National Guard in the 80s. Denise retired from the Army in the mid 90s, and David retired a year ago. 

The couple has been involved with the Farmer Veteran Coalition “for a while,” and they were aware of the Homegrown by Heroes program when it began in Kentucky with the Kentucky Department of Agriculture. 

“They made it nationally about a month or so ago,” said Denise Hudson. She and her husband were notified last week they had been certified. 

According to Hudson, the mission of the program is to “cultivate new farmers and food leaders by collaborating with farms and military persons nationwide. 

“It has been proven that those in the military have the life experience and unique skills and strength to be a farmer. They have leadership skills and the capacity to endure hard and messy work,” said Hudson.

The Homegrown by Heroes program is a “real popular” program in the west and Midwest and is just making its way to the East Coast, said Hudson. 

Being that the Hudsons always have marketed their farm as a veteran owned and operated business, earning this certification is “real exciting. 

“We feel it’s really important to become involved in veteran programs, and this one really fits into our niche market,” said Hudson. 

Eligibility to apply for this honor includes being veterans or active duty military with honorable character of service; the business must declare 50 percent of ownership or more by veterans; products that seek certification must declare that at least 50 percent of non-water ingredients are veteran produced, and the veterans must be willing to sign a media release and submit farm history and a veteran bio.  

The Hudson’s farm is known as a local source for all natural grass-fed meat including goat, lamb, pork and beef. Its breeds of livestock include Scottish Highland and Jersey cattle; Horned Dorset, Gulf Coast and Katahdin Sheep; Large Black, Hampshire and Duroc Swine, Boer, Spanish, Myotonic, Toggenburg and Nigerian Goats; Mammoth Donkeys as well as various breeds of poultry. 

Their meat products, eggs and other farm-produced items can be found at the Town of Halifax Farmers Market, at Molasses Grill and by appointment at the Hudson Heritage Farm Studio. 

In addition, the Hudsons recently expanded into agri-tourism and agri-education by offering farmstead classes in various subjects to include cheese making, food harvest and preservation, cooking and healthy eating, animal husbandry and milking. 

The farm’s agri-tourism component offers the capacity for individuals to stay overnight on the farm and experience farming first-hand. 

Benefits of being certified by the Homegrown by Heroes program include food safety training and planning assistance, but according to Hudson, the largest benefit is simply the recognition.  

Products seeking certification must clear a food safety review with the Farmer Veteran Coalition’s director of food safety with some being approved based on USDA certification of the processing facility, and other products require a more detailed food safety plan based on specific potential hazards.  

To become certified, Hudson said the farm had to undergo an examining process with a veterinarian to witness how the product is treated and processed. 

 “It’s just a third party oversight. That’s always important,” said Hudson. 

The certification is valid for one calendar year and is renewable within 60 days of the anniversary. An annual royalty fee of $25 covers minor administrative costs of certification. 

Using their certification, the Hudsons hope to help with other veterans who are interested in farming and mentor them as they begin their farm. 

Homegrown by Heroes is a certification label originally created by the Kentucky Department of Agriculture to enhance the value of veteran grown food and drink products. 

The Farmer Veteran Coalition operates the Homegrown by Heroes label under a licensing agreement with the Kentucky Department of Agriculture. 

For more information about the Farmer Veteran Coalition’s national Homegrown by Heroes program, visit http://www.farmvetco.org/ or http://hgbh.org/.  

For more information about Hudson Heritage Farms, LLC visit https://sites.google.com/site/hudsonheritagefarms/ or their Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/pages/Hudson-Heritage-Farms-LLC/172016466152452.