Growing America’s Farmers (GAF) is a scholarship-based program whose goal is to draw young adults into production agriculture. A third-generation farmer who recognizes the need to continue production agriculture at the family farm in Glennville, Georgia, Walt Dasher also understands the need for the younger generation to see the value of continuing production ag.Read More
When you support Growing America’s Farmers (GAF), you’re supporting young people who will become tomorrow’s farmers. The average age of today’s farmer is 57 years-old and fewer people are pursuing agriculture-related caeers. Without a sufficient number of farmers, our country could face many serious problems in the decades to come.Learn More About Our Mission
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Right: FFA Members join G&R's Walt Dasher along with Kroger representatives and state officials including Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black - thanks Kroger for your commitment to Growing America's Farmers by Dasher a few years ago
During May, Kroger partnered with Growing America’s Farmers, a non-profit foundation providing college scholarships through the national Future Farmers of America Organization. The partnership allows for a portion of every sale of G&R Vidalia Onions to be donated toward FFA scholarships in Kentucky and across the U.S.
Founded in 1945, G&R Farms is recognized as Georgia's oldest grower, packer, shipper and marketer of Vidalia Onions. The Dasher Family plants approximately 1,000 acres of the world famous crop each year. Product will be on sale in participating Kroger stores across the south (Kentucky, Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia) until the end of May.
“At Kroger Our Purpose is to Feed the Human Spirit by taking care of the communities where we operate,” said Erin Grant, Kroger Media Spokesperson. “This unique partnership allows us to support both regional agriculture, as well as help to provide opportunities for students to continue their education in production agriculture. It is our hope that these students will become farm owners and operators we can feature in our Kroger stores in the future!”
“By partnering with the Kroger and the FFA, Growing America’s Farmers is able to offer scholarships nationwide. I have been so humbled and blown away by the support we have received, and I am really excited about what we have done—and are doing—for the future of the American farmer,” said Walt Dasher, Founder of Growing America’s Farmers.
The future is looking bright for our industry. Is there a better, more satisfying career to call home than fresh produce? With the end goal of feeding the world and increasing the consumption of fruits and vegetables, I say not! Working to bring more fresh faces into our fold, Co-Owner of G&R Farms Walt Dasher is rallying support for Growing America’s Farmers (GAF), a non-profit foundation that provides college scholarships through the national Future Farmers of America Organization.
“My goal is to eventually have support in every state so I can award production ag scholarships to kids with a far-reaching impact, truly showing them that American retailers and consumers care greatly about them and where our food comes from,” Walt tells me, speaking of his third year in the program. “By entering into an agreement with the national FFA, it allowed me to offer scholarships nationwide and, therefore, work with retailers across the country. I have been so humbled and blown away by the support we have received, and I am really excited about what we have done—and are doing—for the future of the American farmer.”
This program allows retailers to support educational opportunities for young people aspiring to become America’s future farmers, and helps them easily get on board to make an impact.
“My long-term goal is to see kids continue on this path and, in five or ten years, grow into our future farmers,” Walt adds. His wife and kids came up with the logo and the non-profit name, so you can see that this program is not only a family affair but a multi-generational one as well.
Along with bringing fresh folks into the industry, Walt knows that this program will bring new ideas with it. Change is inevitable, and having a broader range and source of ideas can only help fuel innovation in a changing global landscape.
“In some ways, I believe that the American farmer has been forgotten about over the past 15 years. It is beginning to show due to the average age increasing to now 60 years old,” Walt shares. “It has already increased from 57 to 60 since I started the program in 2015. My honest opinion is that a majority of Americans have no idea this is happening below the radar. What are we Americans going to do in 15 more years when there aren’t enough farmers to feed our massive country?”
You can see what is keeping Walt up at night.
“Do we really want to import more food than we are growing ourselves? If so, we are in extreme danger because we must eat. What will happen when another country controls our food source? Think about it,” Walt reflects. “Talk about having someone over a barrel. When you live and breathe farming like I have all my life, you can see the writing on the wall.”
Walt’s passion for his work and the future of the industry in the U.S. are deeply rooted, having really began to take its most recent form in 2015 when he was trying to hire young adults to work during the G&R Farms’ busy Vidalia® season.
“We sent out ads across multiple areas only to have maybe one adult under the age of 60 even apply!” he says. Walt then broadened the search to 75 miles, only to have around four apply under the age of 60. “That, in itself, told me a lot and really concerned me. Why were we not getting young adults applying for jobs in an area that is 90 percent ag?”
So, Walt started digging around and contacted the state of Georgia’s FFA foundation. He discussed with them what he was trying to do and wanted to see if the foundation could help him or explain why the interest was waning in recent years. It didn’t take long for Walt to understand that young people are not interested in production farming—the dirty work and where things all begin—but had taken on more of an interest in ag banking, ag tech, ag engineering, etc.
“Don’t get me wrong,” he tells me. “We need them across all areas of growing and innovation, but the ratio was beginning to feel off balance.”
The impassioned industry vet decided to enter into an agreement with the state FFA foundation to do a simple fundraiser back in 2015 in order to donate the proceeds to the state of Georgia’s FFA foundation. The monetary results were small at first, but that was the key that opened the door.
“The Director of the national FFA heard about what I was doing and reached out to ask what this whole initiative was about, who I was, and what I thought my goal may be long-term,” Walt notes. “After explaining the concerns I had, what my thoughts were, and what I was praying would happen, they instantly asked if they could endorse my idea—hence, Growing America’s Farmers was born.”
So, how do retailers fit into this picture? They are either getting their companies’ marketing departments involved and creating digital ads about the program, or creating in-store POS materials and then working closely with G&R Farms’ marketing firm to help custom build in-store, ad press, or digital materials for them to use.
“We supply all materials free of charge; all of our packaging is customized to show the program and how it works,” Walt remarks. “We have very, very nice high-graphic bins and bags that show off the program along with banners and standpoint signs used in the store displays. I am being contacted by retailers we don’t currently sell to, or haven’t sold to in the past, just to see what and how they can get involved somehow. It’s great because when a retailer really thinks about it, this has huge implications for them down the road with the American supply chain. Without farmers, retailers are without a supply source in America. This includes everything from corn, beans, and row crops to all produce items, dairy, eggs, and forestry for our paper needs—not to mention farmers that are testing new seeds, new varieties, new planting methods, new harvest methods, and more.”
Looking to get involved? Walt is currently looking for supporters, sponsors, and donors for the program.
“Getting year-round support for the program is and was my long-term goal and finally my prayers are starting to get answered,” Walt shares. “I have never asked anyone for much, and never will, pertaining to this program, but small steps along the way will start to change the mindset of kids coming from high school and maybe, just maybe, they will see the support that is really out there in this country and want to continue providing for us all.”
With the Vidalia onion season just around the corner, Walt is gearing up for a fantastic harvest as well as a season of giving back with Growing America’s Farmers. All aboard!
Participating retailers in 30 states are contributing a percentage of sales from this year’s crop of Vidalia Onions to support Growing America’s Farmers (GAF), a non-profit foundation that provides college scholarships through the National Future Farmers of America Organization.
Total proceeds are not yet complete but GAF Founder Walt Dasher said scholarship recipients have been announced by a wide range of FFA state chapters where many of the participating retailers are located.
We’re both excited and appreciative of the wonderful support we have received from retail partners from around the country,” said Dasher, a third-generation farmer and partner in G&R Farms, Georgia’s oldest grower of Vidalia Onions. “This is a combined effort made possible by the commitment of many national retailers to help us award scholarships to deserving students who are pursuing careers in production agriculture.
“This is GAF’s first full year of operation and the response has exceeded our expectations. We will continue to work diligently with our retail partners and the National FFA Organization to increase awareness about the steady decline of young people who are interested in production ag career opportunities.”
The current average age of a U.S. farmer is 58 years old and rising. By comparison, the average age of a farmer was only 50 in 1987. Dasher said this has become a growing trend and GAF’s primary goal is to encourage and recruit young adults to become tomorrow’s leaders in the field of production agriculture.
In 2017, G&R Farms entered an agreement with the National FFA Organization to provide college scholarships from a percentage of its Vidalia onion sales. This marked the beginning of GAF and a multi-tier effort to involve retailers who support educational opportunities for young people aspiring to become America’s future farmers.
GAF serves today’s youth with scholarship funding through a partnership with the Future Farmers of America. Learn more by reviewing the GAF Profile.
When you become a corporate partner of Growing America’s Future, you join a community of companies that share our vision to encourage and empower tomorrow’s farmers. Together, we can make a difference. Strategic partnerships can be tailored to your needs and our structure allows you to execute a campaign that works best for your company.
Cause Marketing is a win-win situation for companies and their customers. It provides an easy way for consumers to support a cause they love, generates great awareness about GAF and provides scholarship funds for our non-profit mission through our partnership with the Future Farmers of America. It is also an excellent public relations tool with the potential to increase sales for your company.
More and more of today’s consumers respect and support companies that engage in corporate social responsibility. Plus, they are willing to make contributions that will positively impact their communities. In fact, studies show that a majority of U.S. consumers are likely to switch brands to one associated with a cause, given comparable price and quality.
GAF offers companies the opportunity to conduct a national marketing campaign that can be executed at the grassroots level. Whether it’s through product sales, point of sale activities or other options, please contact us today at 912.654.2100 to discuss whether a cause marketing program benefiting GAF could be a great sales opportunity for your company.
G&R Farms new FFA onion bins featured in select Kroger Stores (L-R) Pictured with G&R Farms' new FFA onions bins in Kroger are Gary Black, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Agriculture; Katrina Jones, executive director of the Georgia FFA Foundation; Bruce Lucia, Atlanta division president of Kroger Co.; and Walt Dasher, co-owner of G&R Farms.
Community fundraisers in support of GAF’s mission can generate funding that will be used for scholarships and other worthwile programs offered through our partnership with the Future Farmers of America.
Create brand awareness through the sponsorship of scholarships for young people pursuing a career in production agriculture. We invite you to be a part of the various sponsorship and marketing opportunities that will become available through GAF. Looking ahead, this could be an excellent way to build brand loyalty, attract new customers and showcase your commitment to supporting the future of agriculture.
Q: Why should my company support GAF?
A: The future of tomorrow’s farming generation needs your help. By providing a direct contribution or supporting GAF with a percentage of sales donation will enable the Future Farmers of America organization to offer scholarships to young people who pursue a career in production agriculture.
Q: Is my donation tax-deductible?
A: Contributions to Growing America’s Farmers may be tax-deductible to the fullest extent permissible by law. Please consult your tax advisor regarding the deductibility of your gift.
Q: Who do I contact if I have questions?
A: If you have any questions about creating a fundraising project please call 912.654.2100. For program specific questions, please contact the Future Farmers of America at
The National FFA Organization is a national youth organization of 649,355 student members as part of 7,859 local FFA chapters in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The organization is supported by 225,891 alumni members in 1,934 local FFA Alumni chapters throughout the U.S. The FFA mission is to make a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education. The National FFA Organization operates under a federal charter granted by the 81st United States Congress and it is an integral part of public instruction in agriculture. The U.S. Department of Education provides leadership and helps set direction for FFA as a service to state and local agricultural education programs. For more, visit the National FFA Organization online at FFA.org and on Facebook, Twitter and the official National FFA Organization blog.
The National FFA Foundation builds partnerships with industry, education, government, other foundations and individuals to secure financial resources that recognize FFA member achievements, develop student leaders and support the future of agricultural education. Governed by a 19-member board of trustees composed of educators, business leaders, individual donors and FFA Alumni, the foundation is a separately registered nonprofit organization. About 82 percent of every dollar received by the foundation supports FFA members and agricultural education opportunities. For more, visit FFA.org/give.