Across America war veterans are coming home from the battle field and finding another way to serve their country, organic farming. This increasing trend has attracted soldiers from a variety of backgrounds and locations including natives of southern California. There are many programs emerging to help educate and fund these future farmers.
Approved by Camp Pendleton’s transition assistance program, Colin Archipley provides hands-on farming techniques and lectures at his organic farm, Archi’s Acres. Attendees learn planting and irrigation methods as well as how to produce a business plan.
Archipley joined the Marines in response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and married between his second and third tours in Iraq. The couple bought three acres of avocado orchards north of San Diego. His farm sells organic produce to Whole Foods Markets in San Diego and Los Angeles.
In 2007, the couple started training veterans informally, financing the effort themselves. The new course, administered through MiraCosta College, costs $4,500, with Camp Pendleton offering assistance for active-duty Marines.
Mike Hanes, another Iraq war veteran, also found his way into agriculture. In Baghdad, Hanes served as a .50-caliber machine gunner atop a Humvee. “I was the one they were trying to kill,” he said. He returned home with post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and a traumatic brain injury. He was homeless for over a year, managing nevertheless to get a degree in environmental social services.
“Being outside was my comfort zone — still is,” he said. Two years ago, he stumbled upon the Archipleys’ “Veterans for Sustainable Agriculture” booth at an Earth Day festival in Balboa Park in San Diego. Mr. Hanes still struggles but is gaining ground.
“One thing I’ve noticed about agriculture is that you become a creator rather than a destroyer,” said Hanes.
John Maki, Camp Pendleton’s transition assistance program specialist, said the life experiences of young veterans equip them for demanding work. “For a comparable age, you won’t find people who have had as much responsibility,” he said. “They’ve been tasked with making life-and-death decisions.”
For the full article visit: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/06/us/06vets.html