I have written extensively about how we treat military veterans here in the US. My new novel, Unwanted Heroes, has been entered into the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards, and highlights this travesty in American society.
This weekend, I read an article in the New York Times about Archis Acres, a small, organic farm near Valley Center, California, where they offer a Veterans Sustainable Agriculture Training (VSAT). The idea is to use agriculture as a transitional period between army/marines and civilian life. In addition to learning how to work the land in a sustainable way, the men and women receive lectures about various niche business options for the modern small-holdings farmer.
The program was developed by Colin Archipley, a decorated Marine Corps infantry sergeant turned organic farmer, along with his wife, Karen. Colin has served three tours in Iraq. Their goal is to revitalize the rural farming industry by providing tools for young people who understand discipline and hard work.
There are two challenges being addressed here. One is the reabsorption of soldiers into civilian life, and the other is to provide a meaningful and economically viable option for the returning soldier.
Even if these young men and women do not continue to work as farmers, the work itself can be extremely grounding. On my kibbutz, we used to bring groups of children, traumatized from bombings and other acts of terror, to the kibbutz and they would help us make bricks out of a clay-like material that would later be used for experiments in alternative building. It was clear how calming and grounding such work could be.
Archi’s Acres is a great program. Helping turn swords into plowshares is a positive step forward.
Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/