From left to right: Bruce, Tom, Evans, Tor, Laron, Erica, Training Director Anita, Allison,Clifton,Kat and Chuck
Arcadia is delighted to introduce you to our first class of Veteran Farmer Reservists! These marvelous people are training on Arcadia Farm at Woodlawn-Pope-Leighey throughout the year for new careers in agriculture. They came to us from all four services -- the Army, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Navy -- and all stages of their careers -- retired, reserve, and transitioning out of active duty.
We spent last weekend with them knee deep in snow on our farm and hunkering down over spreadsheets and crop plans inside Woodlawn mansion. It is the first of 12 intensive weekend workshops where our trainees will get a deep dive into the world of sustainable farming -- from starting seeds and cultivation and irrigation to running a successful farm business. Right now they are doing their homework: figuring out the budget and crop plan for a hypothetical 50-member CSA that does two drops a week. Most weekends include visits to farms in the region to investigate the full range of business models open to them, and to hear from farmers -- many veterans themselves -- about the challenges and rewards of the work.Training Director Anita Adalja discusses plans for the expanded farm fields at Woodlawn-Pope-Leighy, two more acres of sustainably grown veggies this season and 18 more to play with as we grow!
Our veteran Reservists will also join us for two weeks of on-farm work during the growing season to get a feel for the demanding day-to-day rhythms of farming. We're more than sure they are up to it. As one veteran explained: "I was in Fallujah for six months in 130 degree heat wearing 50 lbs of armor. I think I can manage."Laron, Erica, Clifton, Bruce, Evans on the farm. JuJu snuck in, too.
The weekend was full of great discussion, high spirits, and the git-er-done attitude that characterizes so many who have served in the military. Plus, they cleaned our farm tools. Oh, and they also vacuumed the Underwood Room in which we convened. And they did the dishes. Anita responds to a question from Alliy in the Underwood Room. It is named after Oscar Underwood, a Woodlawn resident whom John F. Kennedy wrote about in "Profiles in Courage."
"House of Cards"' Frank Underwood is named after Oscar, but he is a very different kind of cat.The Veteran Reserve program is a mix of hands-on farm work, classroom training, and farm visits. Here, Gary Matteson of the Farm Credit Council and Farmer Veteran Coalition talks about farm finances.
In no particular order, please say hello to the first Arcadia Veteran Farmer Reservists! Tor Peery
has been in Virginia for the last four years, but originally hails from Upstate New York. He is a Marine Corps Infantry Officer, with over 8 years of active duty service. During that time he has deployed as an Assistant UN Food Distribution Position Security Commander with Battalion Landing Team - 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines (3/2), 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit to Haiti in support of (ISO) Operation Restore Hope; as a Team Commander with the Marine Corps Training and Advisory Group to the Republic of Georgia ISO of the Georgia Deployment Program-International Security Assistance Force; as 3rd Platoon Commander, Kilo Company, 3/2 to Musa Qala, Helmand Province, Afghanistan ISO Operation Enduring Freedom; and was selected to be an Instructor at the Marine Corps Officer Candidate School. He wants to learn how to farm because it’s in his blood. He grew up on a non-functional farm surrounded by nothing but rich fields filled with everything from corn to cattle. When he was younger he worked on neighbors’ farms and I hated it; he dreamt of the day when he could one day get out of his small town and see the rest of the world. But as he saw more of the world he began to miss the country life. He quickly realized it wasn’t the farming he hated; it was that he farmed someone else’s land for their benefit and had to follow their rules and practices, even if he himself didn’t believe in them. The road to recovery following his combat related injuries has been long and difficult, but the saving grace has been his wife and son. He wants to give them the life that they deserve, one that he didn’t have when he was young. It was for that reason that he and his wife decided to move back to her family’s farm in Upstate NY. In addition to his family, it is the farm that has given him hope; it reinvigorates and rejuvenates him in more ways than can ever be described; more than any type of treatment ever could or probably ever will. He is also learning how to be a bladesmith, artistic blacksmith and play the baritone ukulele (because it takes a big man to play a little guitar!). Allison Mulligan
(she prefers Alliy) grew up in Dayton, Ohio after moving there from the New York/New Jersey area. A navy veteran, was stationed in sunny San Diego, California for 4 years. Spent her tour on an Amphibious Assault Ship (USS Pearl Harbor LSD-52) and a Guided Missile Destroyer (USS Decatur DDG-73) as a Boatswain's Mate, one of the oldest rates in the navy. All of her deployments were to Southeast Asia and the Middle East. Her favorite memory were being in charge of flight operations. After her discharge, Alliy went on to attend culinary school where she gained a better appreciation for food. What attracted her to this program is the opportunity to be trained in a job that not many people do any more or recognize the importance of it. Alliy's favorite veggie? BEETS! She loves the fact that they are naturally sweet and very versatile; from pasta, to chips, to even drinks, the possibilities are endless! This girl has a sweet tooth so she does enjoy baking. She also has a smile that can brighten the room!
My name is Evans Kofi Appiah
, I am from Alexandria, Virginia, but I originally come from Ghana. I joined the Army about six years ago and I am an honorably discharged US Army Sergeant. My first duty station was Fort Riley Kansas, where I deployed to Iraq in 2010 for 12 months. My military occupation specialty was a Utility Equipment Repairer, and my goal was to do ten years in the Army. As my long term goal, I also wanted to get a Bachelor’s Degree and buy a house before getting out of the Army. Getting out of the Army after five years was not something I anticipated. My ten- year plan that I had scheduled was affected when I got hurt. I started thinking of what benefits I could use to adjust to civilian life when I finally separated. I was not sure if my skills could translate into a civilian job, and I was deeply concerned about how my family needs would be met without a new skill. In my search for a new skill, a manager at Veterans Curation Program informed me about Arcadia, and I jumped at this opportunity to learn a new skill and restore my dream of being my own boss. I had a keen interest in farming as a kid and I loved to plant my favorite vegetable, tomatoes, because it formed the base of every food I liked. As an adult, my ultimate goal is to feed the world and retire on a farm.Chuck Christianson
is Maryland born and raised. He has devoted the last 35 years to service in the United States Army on both active duty and reserve status. His active duty career has been almost entirely within Special Operations. He has supervised and led military units at home and abroad on multiple real world missions during peacetime and wartime. The last 5 years of service has been at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda . This is where Chuck excelled with some of the most unique challenges of his career. Serving as a liaison and advocating for the wounded, ill and injured of the Special Operations Community and their families. Building relationships and networks between the patients, medical staff, administrators, charities and commanders in order to serve and achieve the best possible outcome for all. Chuck is passionate about the outdoors and enjoys spending time hiking and biking when away from work. His goal is to transition into sustainable organic community-based farming. Additionally, to include a program for veterans would be the best of both his desire to serve and to farm.Bruce Salter
is a military brat. He was born at the old DeWitt Army hospital on Fort Belvoir; his early years were spent here in Northern Virginia, which he considers home. Bruce is a 22 year veteran of the United States Air Force, both Active Duty and Air National Guard. His assignments included operational and staff tours, both in the United States and abroad. Bruce currently works as a program analyst conducting long-range planning for Air National Guard federal and state missions. An outdoor enthusiast, his hobbies include whitewater kayaking and hiking. Farming appeals to him because of the challenges it presents as well as the rewards, like helping to keep him physically active and outdoors. His favorite vegetable is kale because it is so resilient, easy to grow, and so full of goodness.Kat Cole
was born in Tucson, Arizona and has never spent more than 5 consecutive years in one place. When she joined the Army, her recruiter tried to talk her into becoming a UAV operator, but she insisted that she wanted a job in which she could learn a foreign language and work with people, not machines - and thus ended up a linguist and interrogator. Nearing completion of her 5 year initial term of service, an injury stymied her prospects for career advancement as a soldier so she re-upped as an Army Civilian specializing in Intelligence. She served with NATO elements in Bosnia, Kosovo and Iraq, followed by 5 years in the Pacific. She was then drafted to a staff job and is rounding out her career by serving as a liaison officer to another agency.She has no idea exactly why she was called to farming, but believes that after 20 years of serving her country, the next 20 should be spent in service of the land. This will be her third season volunteering with Arcadia.
Kat doesn't have a favorite fruit or vegetable, but has been known to tear up when she talks about the first organic peach she tasted (at Arcadia) and she loves snacking on warm summer tomatoes straight off the vine.Erica G. Wrigh
t currently resides in Springfield Virginia her husband Ken (also active duty military) and 13 year old daughter Micheala. She also has an 11-year-old son Bradley who resides in New Hampshire with his father. Erica was raised in Farmington New Hampshire and has had a love of nature and animals from a young age. Often times Erica would bring home stray or injured animals. Erica served in the US Army for 6 years as a 68R/ Food Inspection Specialist, For the last 3 years of service she served as the Branch and later District Training NCO for her command at the rank of SPECIALIST.
Erica and her husband's dream is to own a farm in Kentucky after he retires from the military. The farm would provide the opportunity to be self sufficient while providing fresh healthy food for the family as well as providing additional income. She likes the Arcadia program because it provides her the opportunity to learn more about farming and get a head start on the dream as her husband finishes his career.Her favorite vegetable is Zucchini because she make a mean Zucchini Bread! She also remembers growing up with her mother making breaded fried Zucchini. Her favorite hobby is art of all kinds -- she is generally a crafty person, very hands on when it comes to learning although she learns from various methods. Drawing, Painting often top the list.Clifton "Tiny" Hoffler
is a career U.S. Army veteran who did a tour with his military police unit in Baghdad's Sadr City from '03 to '04. Clifton is in culinary school and plans to open a cafe that sources from its own farm, where he will also teach children to cook and grow food. Tom Snowdy
is in the US Navy. Tom is currently raising a small flock of broiler chickens in his Maryland backyard (he keeps the rooster in his basement so as not to annoy the neighbors). He plans to build a 100-acre livestock farm and grow all their feed on his own land.Laron on the farm last fall. Photo by Tim Peterson. Luke McCullock
is just back from deployment in Afghanistan and wants his own farm. He also plans to build an aquaponics operation in D.C. Laron Murrell
– Laron joined Arcadia full-time in October as our first Veteran Farm Fellow. A two-tour Iraq war veteran, Laron plans to put his family farm in North Carolina back into sustainable vegetable production after he completes his training program with Arcadia. He told the group after a visit home this winter to eastern North Carolina, he saw with new eyes how vital it is for him to go back to raise nutritious food for his community. He has already been approached by a landowner to take over an established farm. We’ll be working with him to develop a business plan to ensure his success, for his own well-being and that of his community. Read more about Laron here
The Arcadia Veteran Farmer Program
is funded in part by generous grants from the USDA Beginning Farmer Rancher Development Program
, Grace Communications Foundation
, the Claneil Foundation
, the Rumsfeld Foundation
, the Prince Charitable Trusts
, and the Neighborhood Restaurant Group