In the most recent installment of the San Francisco Chronicle’s excellent Food Conscious series, Janet Fletcher writes about the Farmer-Veteran Coalition, a new Bay Area-based organization that helps veterans in rural areas find employment in farming. Matt McCue is one example: a former infantry soldier who served in Iraq, he is now the manager of the French Garden farm in Sebastopol, California. McCue finds that farming is helping him adjust to civilian life: “I think a lot of the depression in the military spawns from not having a purpose. What is your life going to be defined by? In the military, if you get into an altercation, your life is defined by tragedy. My life is defined by growing and harvesting things, and there’s a lot to be said for that.”
On their website, the Coalition lists several reasons why a soldier-to-farmer program is important: rural communities lack jobs (one reason they have a higher enlistment rate), and the nation needs more young farmers. With the recent increased interest in supporting local food networks across the country, perhaps those who make the leap into the difficult business of farming will find economic success.
The Farmer-Veteran Coalition website has a list of additional press coverage, as well as numerous links to other programs around the country that are helping veterans through farm training and gardening projects.