For many U.S. veterans, finding fulfilling employment and acclimating back into civilian life can be just as taxing as military service itself. At the same time, America is facing a shortage of farmers, with almost 30% of growers over the age of 65, and fewer than 10% under the age of 35. The Heroic Food Farm is an initiative by Heroic Food and Ennead Architects/Ennead Lab, in collaboration with RAFT Landscape Architecture, to guide returning soldiers from "barracks to barns," with a new mission of battling the nation's farming crisis. Ennead recently completed the first phase of the master plan, which will transform an old farm near Hudson, New York into a facility for the country's first comprehensive residential farm training program designed exclusively for veterans.
Heroic Food was founded in 2014 by screenwriter Leora Barish in order to address two problems: the challenges veterans face as they transition back into civilian society, and America’s need for new farmers to supply the growing demand for locally and sustainably grown food.
“Farming isn’t just a job, it’s a calling, a mission, and veterans are mission-driven,” says Barish. “Thanks to their unique training and experience, veterans have the tenacity and fortitude that make them uniquely suited to help solve a dire national crisis. In turn, veterans returning from combat zones have also found this work to be a powerful means to heal from the invisible wounds of war. Veterans-turned-farmers have found that interacting with the natural world on a daily basis and using their skills to grow, nurture and provide for others has helped them regain their sense of purpose and self, while providing for themselves and their families.”
The Heroic Food Farm master plan, designed by a team consisting of Andrew Burdick, Emily Kirkland, Zach Olczak and Paul Scrugham of Ennead Lab and Rebecca Hill and Anne Clark Baker from RAFT, sprawls out over nineteen acres of an existing farm in Claverack, NY. The complex will include eight supportive housing units built to passive house standards as well as a community facility and a greenhouse. The new buildings will also feature design details that reflect the aesthetic of the existing farm and its pastoral vistas.
The site plan for the new farm was approved unanimously by the Claverack town planning board earlier this month, and Heroic Food is now moving forward with fundraising for the second stage of the master plan.