Soldiers returning from combat in the Middle East are faced with the difficult task of finding their place in civilian life. Many have been traumatized by the horrible realities of war, and even when they can find gainful employment, it can be difficult for veterans to settle into the “normal” 9-5 routine. When Colin Archipley, a decorated Marine sergeant, returned home to California after three tours in Iraq, he needed something to help him readjust to life outside a war zone. He decided to try growing avocados and loved it. Later he got a USDA loan to help him build a greenhouse so he could switch the farm over to organic hydroponic production.
Now, Archipley’s farm, known as Archi’s Acres, produces organic, hyrdoponically-grown, basil, lettuce, chard, kale, mint, tomatoes, cilantro and parsley. More importantly, Archipley is using the farm to introduce other veterans to his version of dirt therapy. In 2007, he started the Veterans Sustainable Agriculture Training (VSAT) program, which uses farming to help vets recover from post-traumatic stress syndrome.
“Our philosophy is to call up and redirect our veteran’s attributes of leadership, tenaciousness, adaptability, as well as willingness to take on severe challenges, self-knowledge and appetite for the continual improvement,” writes Archipley on his website. “We have bet the farm on these well-disciplined and hard-working veterans whom we trust to continually challenge themselves to achieve the highest standards in plant production.”
Besides the mental therapy derived from a hard day’s work on the farm, the fighters-turned-farmers learn skills they can apply elsewhere or use in developing their own businesses. According to Discovery News, the VSAT program has partnered now with local colleges to offer an intensive six-week agricultural business course to veterans.