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New Agtivist: Teaching Soldiers to Farm

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Planting Peace page, Farm Issues page, and our All About Organics page.
Tucked into San Diego's rolling hills, Archi's Acres is a stark departure from the war Marine Sgt. Colin Archipley left behind. Rather than hunt down insurgents, he now grows oversized basil and specialty crops on six acres for local markets. The work is hard, but for Sgt. Archipley, it feels like a respite from the six years he spent training and fighting in Iraq.

In need of a second act, Archipley and his wife Karen pooled their resources to open the farm in 2007. Their mission is twofold; they hope to operate a successful small-scale organic farm and help soldiers make the transition from fighters to champions of sustainable agriculture and financial independence. Together the couple runs a program called Veterans Sustainable Agriculture Training (VSAT), a six-week course run in partnership with two local community colleges that focuses on organics and hydroponics (and the combination of the two, which is rare), as well as greenhouse production and the basics of putting together a business plan.

The couple belongs to a budding veterans-to-farmers movement, a larger effort to recruit vets released from military service to help reinvigorate the aging population of farmers, 40 percent of whom are expected to retire within the next decade. I spoke with Archipley recently about the program and the larger scope of the movement.

Q. In your TEDx presentation you mentioned that food security is tied to national security. Would you mind elaborating on that?

A. When people aren't hungry they naturally feel better. But more importantly any strong economy is based on a foundation of agriculture. And that's definitely true in the United States. The original colonies were founded on tobacco, corn, and cotton. Those ties go all the way back to the start of our country. Globally, areas that have food have access to agricultural systems and those agricultural systems build a foundation for local economies. You have money flowing, people are able to pay their bills, feed their family, pay for an education, and so forth. If you look at a global map, areas that have food shortages are more hostile.


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