Transition Plus is our exciting 501c3 project in Summerfield! Targeted to create rural renewal, with stable housing, agricultural small business education, and a place for healing and learning for our transitioning military, we are now at the fundraising stage, and the beginning farm Phase 1 of our endeavor.
The purpose of Transition Plus Association and its chapters is to encourage RURAL COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT by creating education centers for transitioning veterans reintegrating into rural America to build SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE and COMMUNITY ECONOMIC GROWTH which are essential for National Security.
We provide assistance with housing, healthcare, employment, agricultural and small business education, plus the needed time to discover a new career path, purpose for life, and healing from visible and invisible wounds, all in a quiet area ready for rural renewal.
1. The City of Summerfield is allowing us to use the former school building rent free as we provide the maintenance. We are developing a Shared Community Kitchen and will use the classrooms to house part of the Tower Farm that is being established. The produce will grow under special lights. The rooms will allow for storage and packaging and getting it ready for distribution. The gym will be for the community's use and the veteran's use. The area near the building will house a full-size Commercial Greenhouse in 2022 with state-of-the-art Aeroponic Towers for farming all kinds of produce. It will bring fresh, local produce to a food desert area.
2. We have a fantastic board working on a solid business plan and small business opportunities for transitioning veterans.
Gary Smith, Transition Plus Association President and Executive Director has extensive experience as a defense contractor and entrepreneur.He was project manager for a $43 M radar program for the US Army with installation and support of radars located across the US, Europe and in the South Pacific. He has also served as CEO, Chief Technical Officer, and VP in the defense electronics industry and successfully complied with all applicable Department of Defense fiscal controls on several projects. He has a passion to come along side transitioning veterans and give them the career path support they need to succeed in a whole different world. Too many veterans don't transition well and so struggle for years, or even end their life. We aim to change that!
Linn Sunderlund - Former college professor and ag devotee with strong roots to Summerfield and on its Alumni Board will oversee the building of the Commercial Greenhouse and the Tower Farm indoors as well.
Pat Sunderlund - Pat started a Thrift Store at the site that has the community involved!
Dick Brumbaugh - Highly experienced in the financial world, he serves as the treasurer.
Jerry Zayas - West Point graduate and Veteran of 30+ years, a retired Colonel. Resides in Blue Rapids as mayor.
Jim McNeal - Roots in Summerfield and a veteran chaplain with a mental health specialty. Will be available to our resident veterans.
3. It is in close proximity to Fort Riley, Offutt AFB, and Fort Leavenworth from which military personnel and families are seeking affordable housing, jobs, and a secure location to find purpose, mission and support to heal from visible and invisible wounds. This USO group is partnering with us to send us veterans who desire to go into some sort of agriculture that they can afford. The Tower Farm system, once learned, can be taken anywhere in the world. This location will facilitate the project since our target audience is veterans who desire a quiet, rural location with the opportunity to consider their future career options as well as be exposed to modern produce production.
4. Summerfield has a history of support for veterans offering a secure, quiet, community in a calm, rural setting – The location is also ideal since the town's residents have had veterans live in the community before, and are very accepting of them. Good Shepherd Village, a housing complex in Summerfield, has been home to many veterans in the past. The 9,400 Sq. Ft. building sets on a 2 1/2 acre campus, with plenty of room to grow. There is plenty of space for more apartments, green houses, gardens, etc.
5. We have strong local support from Marshall County, the city of Summerfield, and the Good Shepherd Village complex. Ellen Barber, MCP4G Director, economic director for Marshall County, was instrumental in a $300,000 Community Service Award from the Dept. of Commerce in tax credits. She was key in assigning the credits around the county, along with other awards toward the project, as well as guiding with the direction of the start-up project. We have local organizations that have pledged donations for the tax credits in order to see the project go forward. We have a strong group of volunteers both from the Board and the Summerfield Alumni Association. Americorps Teams have partnered with us twice in the renovation of the school.
6. It's a sustainable model and the only Tower Farm designed as a training farm. This tower farm will be sustainable as new students come in and help learn to grow, harvest and market the product. Profits will go back into the training program. The veterans, when certified, can work at other Tower Farms, or start their own farms anywhere in the country.
7. We are Partnering with Highland Community College where veterans will have opportunities for training with their GI Bill at this local Tech College just 20 minutes away, or they may learn to farm alternatively. If they need time to work locally and just explore what they want to do in the future as a career, our program allows that as well. There are lots of local manufacturing jobs in the area.
We see this Tower Farm as a very long-term project that helps sustain the Transition Plus Association's nonprofit vision of training veterans and transforming rural communities. The model can be replicated in other rural areas as well. There are empty school buildings everywhere, and the need for fresh, local food!
Transition Plus is now providing amazing lettuce under the brand of Better Produce. If you would like to try it, it is being sold at Frankfort's grocery, J&R; Blue Rapid's grocery, Riverside Market; and Greenleaf's Crombe's grocery, as well as the popular restaurant in Marysville, The Empty Cup. If you have questions or would like to help, please contact Ellen Barber in the space below.