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Arts & Culture

LIDIA CELEBRATES AMERICA: Homegrown Heroes (on KPBS 2)

Host Lidia Bastianich hosts a celebration for veterans and their families.
Courtesy of Meredith Nierman/WGBH
Host Lidia Bastianich hosts a celebration for veterans and their families.

Airs Friday, Dec. 15, 2017 at 10 p.m. on KPBS 2

"Freedom doesn’t come by itself or stay by itself; it’s guarded. And it’s guarded by the veterans that are willing to give their life…to protect that freedom. For me that’s a great gift."Lidia Bastianich

Across America, combat veterans are quietly returning to the land, digging in, and creating new lives as farmers and caretakers.

This holiday season, internationally- acclaimed chef, author and food ambassador Lidia Bastianich pays tribute to the military men and women who have sacrificed so much, and continue to give back to their country.

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S5 Ep1: Lidia Celebrates America: Homegrown Heroes - Preview

"In Homegrown Heroes

In LIDIA CELEBRATES AMERICA “Homegrown Heroes,” an uplifting new special, Lidia Bastianich journeys across the country — from just outside of Buffalo to rural farm areas of West Virginia to Kentucky and finally to the West Coast — to farm with and cook with veterans who have found a new way to help themselves and others on the homefront.

She then pays homage to them by cooking them a Lidia-inspired meal in California, the breadbasket of America.

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To connect with veteran farmers across the land, LIDIA CELEBRATES AMERICA teamed up with Farmer Veteran Coalition, an organization that mobilizes veterans to feed America and transitions them from military service to farming.

THE FEATURED VETERANS

Mark and Denise Beyers (East Aurora, New York) were high school sweethearts who fell in love, then joined the U.S. Marines together. Mark lost his right arm and leg in an IED explosion while deployed in Iraq. The couple has a 15-acre ranch near Buffalo where they farm maple trees for syrup, raise turkeys and chickens, and sell eggs and honey.

Alvina Maynard (Richmond, Kentucky), a US Air Force veteran and reservist, finds humor and healing in the herd of alpacas she raises for fiber, wool, and meat on her Kentucky ranch. She talks of the pleasures of farm life and the value of hard work and caring for living things.

Edgar Hercila (Anaheim, California), is a first-generation American and a U.S. Army Corporal who served in Iraq, where he was tasked with agricultural development and rebuilding. He continues to serve his country as an urban farmer and CEO of Civitas Organics, an organic company that utilizes aquaponic technologies--an entirely sustainable type of gardening. He has created a symbiotic aquaculture system for raising tilapia and growing basil.

Nate Looney (Anaheim, California) is a Sergeant in the National Guard who was on duty in New Orleans when the levees broke after Hurricane Katrina, and who later served in Iraq. He’s a fifth-generation farmer. Today, Nate is growing microgreens through hydroponics, which uses water instead of soil to farm. He’s been sharing space with fellow veteran Corporal Hercila, while building his own company, Westside Urban Gardens. Nate thinks food security is an important issue and believes veterans have the “never quit” attitude that all good farmers need to possess.

Jon Darling (McClellanville, South Carolina) a veteran U.S. Army Ranger, enlisted in the military after 9/11, and worked six deployments in four years to Iraq and Afghanistan in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. After the military, he fought depression and even had a few run-ins with the law. Farming became the answer for him, providing him with purpose and helping to relieve his PTSD. He and his wife began by sheep farming and now raise hybrid hogs on their six-acre farm in South Carolina.

Calvin Riggleman (Loom, WV), a US Marine veteran known to friends as “Bigg Rigg,” returned from Iraq’s front lines to work on his family’s 134 acres of land, which he grew up farming in the hills of West Virginia. He grows fruits and vegetables, manages a farm stand, travels to farmers’ markets, makes his own jams, jellies and sauces, and distills several kinds of local moonshine from the produce he grows.

Kelly Carlisle (East Oakland, California) became an urban farmer to give back to the poor, tough neighborhood where she grew up. Gardening taught her that growth—including growing your mind, your body, and your ideas--starts with a seed. After serving as an Operations Specialist in the US Navy and Navy Reserve, she founded a non-profit urban farm project to serve at-risk youth.

Matt Smiley (Davis, California) is a former paratrooper and disabled veteran who works on an eight-acre farm. As US Army Veteran Outreach Coordinator for the Farmer Veteran Coalition he trains other veterans to help them find meaningful careers in agriculture. He says farming feels similar to deployment because it requires being outdoors, incredible teamwork, and hard work, and it gives a sense of purpose.

JOIN THE CONVERSATION:

Lidia Bastianich is on Facebook, Instagram, and you can follow @LidiaBastianich on Twitter. #LidiaPBS

Farmer Veteran Coalition is on Facebook, and you can follow @FarmVetCo on Twitter.

CREDITS:

A production of WGBH Boston and Tavola Productions. Executive Producers are Lidia Bastianich and Laurie Donnelly. Funding is provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.