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From The Battle Field To The Farm Field

The greenhouse at Archi's Acres, an organic farm in Valley Center, California.

Credit: Archi's Acres

Above: The greenhouse at Archi's Acres, an organic farm in Valley Center, California.


Veterans learn farming and harvest peace of mind at Archi's Acres, an organic farm in Valley Center. We'll hear why soldiers make good farmers.

Environmental sustainability is a rallying cry for many people, but especially for the younger generation of Americans. So combine that concern, with the number of young vets that have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the fact that a huge number of those vets are originally from rural America. When you throw in the fact that the majority of current American farmers are entering their golden years you have an opportunity waiting to happen.

A small organic farm in Valley Center is now conducting veterans' sustainable agriculture training - it's part of a number of training programs around the country getting former soldiers back to the land.


Colin Archipley is a Marine Corps veteran turned organic farmer, who founded Archi's Acres in 2007 after three tours in Iraq.

Mike Hanes is Marine Corps veteran and participant at Archie's Acres Farm.

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This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

I'm Maureen Cavanaugh of course and you're listening to These Days on KPBS. [CHECK AUDIO] so combine that concern with the number of young vets who is have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the fact [CHECK AUDIO] current American farmers are entering their golden years, you have an opportunity waiting to happen. A small organic farm in Valley Center is now conducting veteran sustainability agriculture training. It's part of a number of training programs around the country getting former soldiers back to the land. I'd like to welcome my guests. Collin Archipley is a Marine Corps veteran turned organic farmer, who after thee tours in Iraq founded Archi's acres in 2007. Mike Hanes is Marine Corps veteran and participant at Archi's Acres farm. Mike, good morning.

HANES: Hi, morning.

CAVANAUGH: Hi. Colin, let me start with you. What do farming and serving in the military have in common.

ARCHIPLEY: Well, you know for me, when I came back, I began to realize how much stress on the current political scene that we have here in the United States is being acquired from things like energy production and agriculture and energy production are tied together. And particularly going forward with the use of biofuels and algae production, and also farming wind and solar power, that's gonna be key to sustainability in the United States , and the future wars of the United States, to be fault over oil, or anything like that is gonna be fought over food and water. So that's what we're trying to fend.

CAVANAUGH: Right. You think ever environmental sustainable farming as a security issue; is that right?

ARCHIPLEY: Oh, yeah, eye hundred percent. Of and you upon, Egypt right now is a good example of how critical agricultural production is, because [CHECK AUDIO] grains up drastically in the Middle East, and we're starting to see unsustainability in those regions in part because of agricultural products, the food and fiber industry in the United States, $1.3 trillion industry per year for us.

CAVANAUGH: Now, Colin, why do you think soldiers make good farmers? What kind of skills are transferrable or are there any from one career to the other and.

ARCHIPLEY: Yeah, well, absolutely. Leadership, leadership, leadership. That's really what we founded our program as tapping into the leadership capabilities of the -- these very young people have. You take a young more, team leader, squad leader, he's leading [CHECK AUDIO] are the ones that he wrote. And he steps outside the wire with those individual it is, under his command, as well as hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions of dollars of equipment, that he's responsible for. So these people are 21, 25, very young people. So we want to tap into that leadership skill, we want to tap into their courage because starting a business or jumping into this industry is tough, and you got have the personal fortitude to do it. And the work ethic, these are long days you put in this agriculture, you're out you're moving around issue it's physically active. So it takes a certain type of person to want to get into that.

CAVANAUGH: Mike Hanes issue I'm wondering if [CHECK AUDIO].

HANES: Oh, yes. Definitely. I got out of the Marine Corps in 2004, and I really wished that something like this existed at the time. [CHECK AUDIO] but the skills that I reasoned in the Marine Corps, I mean, I was in for almost eight and a half years, the standard enlistment is four years, so the training that they put you through is totally -- they spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on your training. We go through a lot of training, a lot of discipline and skill ability to really transition over well. It's an amazing program, and the guys just really work fluid with each other, and it's like working in a team of veterans, everybody just kinda watch each other's back. We kind of have that general -- military communication going on without communicating, if it makes any sense.

CAVANAUGH: It does, Mike. I'm fascinated by the requested of training former soldiers to become farmers and working on the left-hand is also being thought of as a way of helping disabled vet, vets who not only have physical disabilities but who come out suffering from traumatic brain injuries, and post traumatic stress disorder. And I understand that you have also suffered from post traumatic stress disorder. How does learning how to farm in this way help you out?

HANES: Well, you become a nurturer, a creator. And there's something very calming about that, very soothing and you have a cents of purpose. When the military trains you over and over and over again how to shoot a weapon and go to combat, and then they put you into combat, and you come back, they don't turn it off, you know, you're just kind of out, and you're done. So for me which I got out in 2004, I just had an insatiable desire to get away from everything. I went to the east coast, and I actually went on an expedition to hike the Appalachian trail. And I was out there for about two months and that was kind of my decompression pad. [CHECK AUDIO] scenario, so you're taking someone from a combat environment, and then you're putting them in an environment where it's just peaceful. And it's, you know, you're creating things, and you're just away from all the noise, and the madness going on. It's a very soothing environment to be in, very therapeutic, and a very freight transitional tool for anyone in the military, especially someone who's been in a combat situation.

CAVANAUGH: I'm speaking with Mike Hanes, and Colin Archipley, and we're talking about Archi's farms, it's in Valley Center, and it's where they're now conducting veteran [CHECK AUDIO] into environmental sustainable farmers. And I'm wondering, Collin, how did you become an organic farmer?

ARCHIPLEY: Well, that's a good question. Actually, my wife had a business while I was in the Marine Corps, and post911, [CHECK AUDIO] [CHECK AUDIO] and on the property came 200 avocado trees, so when I came back from my last deployment, I had a lot of free time on my hands waiting to get out, started working with the avocado tree, and I really enjoyed it, but I also knew -- or I began to understand challenges that growers in San Diego County are having, particular he with water. [CHECK AUDIO] energy production and. So there it goes right back to energy. And that's just -- I think for a lot of veterans be that's I huge concern when you go to places like the middle east, and you understand the type of ties that we have related to energy production and our exhorting of a trillion dollars a year for that energy.

CAVANAUGH: Now, what are you growing up at Archi's acre it is now? Is it all avocados.

ARCHIPLEY: No, no, definitely not. [CHECK AUDIO] Hillcrest farmer's market in Rancho Santa Fe, but we also sell -- basil is our main crop, and we use techniques culled hydroponics, it tends to be [CHECK AUDIO] chard, kale, sill apt row, and you find those at our farmers' markets and also Jim bow's and whole foods as well. [CHECK AUDIO] they allowed us to use a lot of their drip technology, which is 75 to 80 percent more water efficient, and help train these guys using that type of technology on a neighborhood property that we leased three acres issue so they have an understanding of. And how to work in a green house, and how affective that is, [CHECK AUDIO].

CAVANAUGH: What are the reasons that I read that the VA and other groups are supporting this effort to get, you know, vets trained in farming activities is because the current American farmers are really sort of getting up in years. Colin, tell us a little bit about that. [CHECK AUDIO].

ARCHIPLEY: In the United States are reaching retirement age, and that somewhat conflicts with the growth of population that we continue to have in the United States. As a global population. But in a couple years, the global population is gonna grow from in estimated seven billion of today, to the 10 billion of tomorrow. And agriculture, particularly in California being the largest agricultural producer in the world, [CHECK AUDIO] from the agricultural industry, so it's penitentiary to keep -- it's important to have something to fill those shoes of these people heaving, and [CHECK AUDIO] family, but the families aren't picking up that responsibility anymore, because it is a tough industry, but we want to show these guys with the right technology, and with the mind set that this isn't -- you know, you're gonna grow a vineyard and live peacefully. You gotta come at it with a business mindset, as an entrepreneur, [CHECK AUDIO].

CAVANAUGH: Mike, I want to ask you the question that Colin raised, and that is the idea of sustainability and the environment from men and women coming out of the military these days. Do you see that linked as [CHECK AUDIO] fought wars in Iraq and Afghanistan?

HANES: Yes, I do. I see a lot of the wars today as totally unnecessary. And it's very difficult for military guy which is they go in, and they go in at 18, and they're at such a young age where they really believe when they're doing [CHECK AUDIO] that's another thing that really appealed to me about the Archi's acres program, because they're using the cutting edge technology that's gonna be implemented into the future with hydro pontic technology. With hydro pontics you can grow food in an abandoned warehouse in a city. That's what they use in the space stations, you can grow food in Antarctica, anywhere in the planet, really. Of [CHECK AUDIO] the wave of the future, basically. And so yeah, it is kind of frustrating seeing that we're still in this war system, and it frustrates me when I see my buddies coming back, you know, losing limbs or something hike that, and they get into, you know, they realize what's going on, and it's just -- you know, it's very hard for them to kind 67 come to peace with that.

CAVANAUGH: Right. Collin, finally tell me just a little bit about this course, it's become a course now at Mira Costa college, right? Reasoning how to grow on Archi's acres.

ARCHIPLEY: Yeah, so we're contracted with Mira costa college, and with the help of student nonprofits like the [CHECK AUDIO] endowment fund, and the veteran green jobs, as well as freedom is not free, we've been able to raise tuition funds so we get active duty military people who are waiting to separate from Camp Pendleton, and we're [CHECK AUDIO] when they leave the service, they have the skills that can be employable, or some of these guys have property they can go back to [CHECK AUDIO] rural communities so we want them to send them back to that property with usable skills. And we also work with the irrigation association, and each year with a certificate, what they call a certified agriculture specialist, so those are the things we work on with the course, and what the training are.

CAVANAUGH: Colin, Mike, thank you for talking with us today, and good luck with Archi's acres.

ARCHIPLEY: Well, thanks for the opportunity.

HANES: Thank you.

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