Returning Warriors Go to Work, in the Fields

Facing high unemployment rates, returning U.S. veterans are finding work on the farm.
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Facing high unemployment rates, returning U.S. veterans are finding work on the farm.

At age 25, Marine Sgt. Colin Archipley had completed three tours in Iraq.

“My unit was redeploying,” he says. “A lot of the guys I served with were going back because they couldn’t find jobs; I worried it would be hard to find something after I separated from the military and thought about going with them.”

His wife Karen convinced her husband to trade his tank for a tractor and turn a 5-acre plot they’d bought near San Diego into a small-scale organic farm. A year later, in 2007, Karen and Colin had launched Archi’s Acres, growing basil, avocados, lemons, kale, chard, and heirloom tomatoes for local organic markets and area Whole Foods stores while providing agricultural training to veterans.

The Jan-Feb 2012
Miller-McCune

This article appears in our Jan-Feb 2012 issue under the title "Battlefields to Basil." To see a schedule of when more articles from this issue will appear on Miller-McCune.com, please visit the
Jan-Feb 2012 magazine page.

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Karen’s timing was good: according to the Department of Agriculture’s 2007 Census of Agriculture, since 2002 there has been a 20 percent decrease in farmers under 25 and a 30 percent increase in farmers over 75 in this country.

To both encourage farming in this country, and help address the dismal unemployment level among vets, the Department of Agriculture and several colleges and nonprofits are helping would-be farmers with resources, education, mentorships, and financial assistance. The Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture’s two-year Combat Boots to Cowboy Boots program offers basic agricultural education and loans, for example, but also helps create succession plans between new and retiring farmers.

The Farmer-Veteran Coalition, based in Davis, California, acts as a clearinghouse for information on farming and mentoring, and secures grants and fellowships. “We expected calls to be from vets from farming families, explains outreach coordinator Chris Ritthaler, a former Marine, “but we’re seeing a large number of vets from urban areas with no farming backgrounds who are interested in starting farms.”

To date, the Archipleys have helped some 50 veterans move into farming. And in September, a private investor agreed to provide capital to help Archi’s Acres expand its operations to start farms in Washington, D.C., Boston, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Irvine, California.

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