Riverview resident Mike Burrell has a new career path thanks to a Hillsborough County program. Burrell was the first participant in the Veterans Agriculture Selection Program which offers a paid internship providing hands-on learning and training experiences for veterans so they can transition to a career in agriculture.The program is accepting applications for two new positions this month.
Supported by the University of Florida (UF), the program offers veterans a nine-month paid position at either the UF Gulf Coast Research Center in Wimauma or the Range Cattle Research and Education Center in Ona. Participants are introduced to various modern crop production practices while enrolled in a UF Certificate Program. Upon completion of the program, participants transition to a three-month paid internship with a local farm or agribusiness to use their skills and experience.
Burrell, who retired after many years in the Air Force spent in England, Florida, Missouri, Iraq and Washington DC in positions ranging from a surgical technician to a financial officer, found the program an excellent fit for his desire to find a new career path.
“When deciding what I wanted to do next, I thought a lot about how I can leave a legacy for future generations,” said Burrell, who is also a trained pastry chef. “Farming isn’t going anywhere, so I decided that an education in agriculture would be priceless.”
During his six month stretch at the UF Gulf Coast Research Center, which began in January 2017, Burrell learnied a wide variety of skills from driving a tractor to irrigation and learned about the planting, fertilization and harvesting of crops including tomatoes and strawberries.
“It was quite an adventure,” he said.
Burrell spent the second part of his internship in a finance role at a Lakeland company where he was offered a full time position upon completion.
Veterans wishing to apply must submit DD214 honorable discharge paperwork, a resume or job history, three letters of recommendation and an essay describing their interest in agriculture and what they would like to achieve from the program. Applicants will be interviewed by staff from the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, the UF Gulf Coast Research Center and HillsboroughCounty Economic Development.
To submit and application or learn more about the program, contact Simon Bollin, Agribusiness Development Manager at 276-2735 or visit www.HCFLGov.net/Vets2Ag.