Veterans Ecological Trades Collective

Veterans' Entrepreneurial Training and Studies in Conservation, Agriculture, Forestry and Ecology

aka VETS_CAFE   |   Centralia, WA   |  www.vets-cafe.org

Mission

The Veterans' Ecological Trades Collective exists to support veterans and allies in acquiring skills that launch or refine careers in Conservation, Agriculture, Forestry and Ecological Design.

Ruling year info

2016

Executive Member

Deston Denniston

Main address

c/o 608 S Silver St

Centralia, WA 98531 USA

Show more contact info

EIN

81-4718769

NTEE code info

Employment Training (J22)

Natural Resource Conservation and Protection (C30)

Agricultural Programs (K20)

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

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Communication

Programs and results

What we aim to solve

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Every day 20 veterans commit suicide. 65% of veterans who take their own life are 50+ years of age. Farmers commit suicide at almost two times the rate of veterans when assessed per capita. The average age of US farmers is approaching 60. Meanwhile access to land is becoming more challenging, both due to escalating prices and reduced volume. VETC / VETS_CAFE share a mission- when vets come together in the course of community service, purpose and direction become a byproduct of the work done. At our 120ac veterans farm incubator we work 1 on 1 with veterans and farmers, forging relationships that give new farmer-veterans access to land and facilitate person to person transfer of knowledge and skill sets from seasoned farmers. Our program participants get a leg up as they move forward to secure their dreams, whether it is to start a new venture or share a lifetime of experience. Ecosystems resilience and food security are nice side effects. Purpose driven livelihood is a life saver.

Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

VETS_CAFE Permaculture Design Course

Beginning in 2019 we will offer two Permaculture Design Courses at our new farm. our 80 hour program is specifically geared towards veterans who want to launch or develop careers in Conservation, Agriculture, Forestry and Ecological Design. With Hands on Training and support from partners in everything from veterans benefits claim navigation to Business Planning and strategy, we aim to launch veterans in green careers.

Population(s) Served
Veterans

Held on many of the weekends during the late spring through Thanksgiving, these events take care of a site project and then thank those who pitched in with a barbecue made from farm fresh produce. We raise Pork, Turkey, and Goats Currently, and will be expanding operations and menus offerings.

Population(s) Served
Veterans

VETS_CAFE; Conservation, Agriculture, Forestry and Ecology. Working with Conservation Northwest and the USDA, we are restoring and preserving habitat for Large game such as Roosevelt Elk, and small critters, such as the endangered Mazama Pocket Gopher and the Mardon's Skipper, a butterfly. Fortunately, grazing cattle and goats on these lands is compatible to the purpose of the conservation efforts, merging Agriculture to the Conservation work. Moreover, as 60 acres of our site is in forests, we are developing forestry internship options as well. Ecological Design is the process of integrating not only those subjects, but the diverse potentials of the site, ranging from solar power production to sustainable rammed earth, timberframe, and strawbale construction- and much more. Veterans can take internships with us towards any of these career goals, and well back it up with partnered business plan writing, field sponsorship of academic credits and whatever other legitimate path to right livelihood we can offer for our veteran participants.

Population(s) Served
Veterans
Veterans
Veterans

Where we work

Our results

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

How does this organization measure their results? It's a hard question but an important one.

Area of land, in hectares, directly controlled by the organization and under sustainable cultivation or sustainable stewardship

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

Veterans

Related Program

VETS_CAFE Permaculture Design Course

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Increasing

Context Notes

We have leased a small farm for the past several years. This year, 2018, we were donated a 60ha/120ac farm. Leveling up.

Number of participants attending course/session/workshop

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

Veterans

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Increasing

Context Notes

Covid smashed us in 2020, but also called us to refine our approaches, which we anticipate having long standing benefits to our program participation.

Number of rallies/events/conferences/lectures held to further mission

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

Veterans

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Increasing

Context Notes

We held numerous small events in 2020, all Covid savvy. Participants came back repeatedly, building strong ties across the year, allowing us to deeply consider a way forward.

Number of clients placed in internships

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

Veterans

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Increasing

Context Notes

Despite Covid, 2020 saw us with stable internship numbers. We have built a platform which will allow us to host 20+ interns a year as Covid breaks. Here's to filling the quota!

Number of participants who gain employment

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

Veterans

Related Program

VETS_CAFE Permaculture Design Course

Type of Metric

Outcome - describing the effects on people or issues

Direction of Success

Increasing

Context Notes

We saw two veterans produce start up businesses in 2020. They will be our first incubated business on the #Vetsfarm.

Our Sustainable Development Goals

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn more about Sustainable Development Goals.

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

We will graduate 80+ veterans and allies from our Permaculture Design Course between now and 2025. Working with our partners, such as Enterprise for Equity (www.enterpriseforequity.org/) the Washington State Veterans Conservation Corps (www.dva.wa.gov/program/veterans-conservation-corps), the Northwest Agriculture Business Center (https://www.agbizcenter.org/) and Conservation Northwest (https://www.conservationnw.org) we'll see 50% of our program participants launch or develop existing Conservation, Agriculture, Forestry or Ecology careers, while 25% of them continue on to a degree program, or direct hire. 100% will report that participation has given them benefits in personal development and community networking.

Our 120 farm offers solace and service opportunities, such as producing food for the local food bank, fishing in our private pond, community barbecues, campouts, and more. Veteran internships and mentoring opens paths for careers which clean up the environment, produce healthy food and landscapes, and clarify a life-and-work passion for vets. In time our veterans farm will also include a transitional program from vets working through housing issues, a full service Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program with meat, dairy, and vegetable options, an onsite commercial kitchen for value added processing, classrooms, community events venues, shops and laboratories. That may sound like a lot, but we have over 60,000sf to renovate and make useful to the community, providing not only veterans but our broad community with benefits.

Still, its one step at a time, and one foot in front of the other. read more about this years goals here: https://6b87fb0c-bd73-44e8-9830-909d1b9ff3e4.filesusr.com/ugd/5e7fcf_ec61f87114e54045bedeadb6e42cde4b.pdf

In fall 2018 we secured a 120 acrefarm, and valued at $560,000. Our first step is to Level UP. IN 2020 we had a budget of just over $40k, and total revenues of $56K. And like so many, Covid-19 knocked us sideways. We are coming back highly focused and with better skills. Starting in June 2021 we are launching a capital campaign which will see us raise $400k+ over the following year. To achieve this we are working on a three fold marketing and development program:

1) Capture 7-8 small grants of $5-$15K, often co-authored with local partners, valued at $50k. This builds capacity and networking integrity for us and our partners while giving us funds to cooperatively engage at the intersection of our missions.
2) Capture 2 medium sized grants of $20-$50 K with Agency and National partners such as the Washington State VA and The Farmer Veteran Coalition totalling $100K, and submit a 2022 Washington State Legislative Session Community Project Funding for $400K.
3) Reach 10,000 new supporters through PR/Advertising campaign bringing $50k across social media platforms.

In order to do this we will be working to develop capacity that pays 2-3 staff- An Office Manager, a Volunteer Coordinator and a Social Media/PR specialist. we will also bring on a volunteer caretaker, who will realize some of the benefit of being able to grow a private garden and help with tending animals and provide site security.

P/CEO Deston Denniston will continue to volunteer through 2021; In 2020 he logged nearly 3000 hours for the organization, accepting only travel reimbursements. In addition to Deston's time, another 4000 hours of volunteer time were logged by a total of 25+ volunteers. This year we plan to smash those numbers; as Covid breaks we anticipate 50+ volunteers logging over 10000 hours.

In addition to paying the above mentioned staff, who will be essential to program and operations, we will begin remodel of some of our farm infrastructure; In fact we have already met our primary funding goals for 2020, namely bringing in revenue to have a solar power station built on site, a project targeted to be installed by May 2021. You can read more about our 2020 year in review and some of our 2021 goals here: https://6b87fb0c-bd73-44e8-9830-909d1b9ff3e4.filesusr.com/ugd/5e7fcf_5315d890b063412f81c83c0548301160.pdf

The solar power station will allow us to power a small shop which in turn will help us start reclaiming our infrastructure and provide an outlet for creativity. It will also provide some essentials - night time and security lighting, and power for the well, which means we can do laundry, provide hot showers during our multi-day intensives, and refrigerate food- including a charcuterie locker where we will cure meats raised on site to share at our veterans fellowship events.

Founder Deston Denniston, in addition to 35+ years work in farming and forestry, a Masters in Agriculture Science, and 10+ years work in experimental construction/code development, currently sits on the Board of the Washington Chapter of the Farmer Veteran Coalition.

Board members include a Current US Navy Cheif Petty Officer and Seabee, A pHD who is a WA State Statitician and Epidemiologist, A senior member of a professional Accounting firm, a Professor of Nursing, and a farmer veteran with nearly a decade of Poultry breeding experience. Past Directors have included a Tribal Manager with a US recognized Treaty Tribe, a retired DNR Forester and Water Quality Manager, and a retired Senior Staffer with the WA State Governors Office. Most of our Board members are veterans or have worked professionally with veterans and/or the DoD. The reason we can do this is because despite being a new non profit, none of us are new to non profit work. VETC is a new organization designed by an experienced team to meet current needs.

The 120ac farm didn't fall in to our laps. We were heavily vetted by the prior owner through their contacts at the Washington State VA and Veterans' and Friends of Puget Sound. They looked at our history since 2012, prior to our 501c3 status. One of the questions we were asked was how we had funded our earlier projects. In fact, we hadn't. Aside from gas for travel, we spent no money on our first 80 hour program. Deston did not charge for services, and donated meat and veg from his own farm. Churches and food banks and farms donated all the rest that our cadre needed for food. A tool rental loaned us the tools need for hands on work. The venue was eager to accept garden installs as trade for the two weeks of the groups time on their site. Since then there have been pasture management courses, hog slaughter and butcher, massive earthworks demonstrations, and barbecues... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q33c1NycLmI and https://vimeo.com/145073984.

When the 120 acre farm was donated, we set about fixing the well, securing some outbuildings for use as storage and animal barns, opening grounds for garden and row crop, and hosting our first onsite trainings. IN 2021 the site will see its second intensive Permaculture Design Course, and anticipates 20 graduates. In fall 2021 we will continue architectural design charettes, classes intended to design the nearly 2ac of covered space at the site. In addition to this we have a Habitat conservation and Forestry Management plan in the works with the USDA, part of which will cover the 20ac of open space conservation wetlands we are moving into a permanent conservation easement.

Over 2021 we will complete a Forest Management and a Conservation Habitat Management plan with the USDA, begin the process of doing a Brownfields Assessment with the EPA which addresses the illegal dumping and trace effects of the sites former use as an industrial poultry processing facility, establish a Managed Intensive Grazing Program for our livestock, explore the options for opening a green burial site for veterans with the Federal VA Cemeteries Program, start our forestry programs with WSU Extension Service, and continue our Permaculture Education platform backed by PINA 510c6- as well as continue monthly work-parties and veterans fellowship barbecues.

Financials

Veterans Ecological Trades Collective
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Operations

The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

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Connect with nonprofit leaders

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  • Analyze a variety of pre-calculated financial metrics
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  • Compare nonprofit financials to similar organizations

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Veterans Ecological Trades Collective

Board of directors
as of 02/22/2022
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board chair

CPO Craig Lawrence

US Navy Reserve

Term: 2020 - 2023

Mandy Stahre

Washington State Government

Jennifer Torgerson

Liquid Assets Accounting LLC

Bryan Jan

Foxhole Farm LLC

Gary Michelberger

South Puget Sound Community College

Board leadership practices

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section.

  • Board orientation and education
    Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations? Yes
  • CEO oversight
    Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year ? Not applicable
  • Ethics and transparency
    Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year? Not applicable
  • Board composition
    Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership? Yes
  • Board performance
    Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years? Not applicable

Organizational demographics

SOURCE: Self-reported; last updated 2/2/2021

Who works and leads organizations that serve our diverse communities? GuideStar partnered on this section with CHANGE Philanthropy and Equity in the Center.

Leadership

The organization's leader identifies as:

Race & ethnicity
White/Caucasian/European
Gender identity
Male, Not transgender (cisgender)
Sexual orientation
Heterosexual or Straight
Disability status
Person with a disability

Race & ethnicity

No data

Gender identity

No data

 

No data

Sexual orientation

No data

Disability

No data