“To be a good farmer, you have to be really good at a lot of things,” says Leora Barish, founder of non-profit veteran farming organization Heroic Food. “What [people] don’t realize is that veterans are great for farms and farming and for our food supply because they have a work ethic like nobody’s business and they have the endurance and they have the mission drive and grit and everything else that are required to start a farm.” Barish started the Heroic Food Farm in the spring of 2015 as a vehicle for teaching and training military veterans in sustainable farming so that they can utilize their unique skills in a new way. Inhabitat recently visited the farm, located just outside of Hudson, NY, to find out more about its inspiring mission as the country’s first comprehensive residential farm training program designed exclusively for veterans. Watch our video to learn about Heroic Food and how you can support this worthy and important program.
Returning to normal life after serving in the armed forces can be a stressful and demoralizing experience for many veterans, especially when they are unable to find a job, or find one that is fulfilling and puts their specific skills to good use.
Heroic Food founder Leora Barish
“There’s no process in this culture for returning veterans to help them recover from the effects of their service but also to help them adjust to a radically different set of moral imperatives,” Barish told us. “To expect people to come from one to another is completely unreasonable.”
Heroic Food is an opportunity to train veterans for employment that is surprisingly congruous with their past experiences, while also helping to solve America’s farming crisis. With six times more farmers over the age of 65 than farmers 34 and under (according to a study by the National Young Farmers’ Coalition), the United States is facing a dangerous situation for the future of our food supply. One of the biggest problems with recruiting young farmers, in addition to higher costs of farm startup and operation, is that not everyone has the drive, determination and stamina necessary to work a farm successfully. Thomas Burrall, Heroic Food’s Program and Training Director and a veteran himself, explains that these characteristics are already deeply ingrained in service women and men.
“Somebody’s that’s in the military, they have a different mindset,” Burrall told us. “They’re organized, they’re disciplined. They learn certain character traits that really fit well with farming.”
The mission-based work that farming offers is also important to understanding why it is so well-suited to those who have a military background.
“One of the things that veterans miss so much when they’re separated from the military is a mission,” says Barish. “They can get jobs sometimes, but it’s not a mission.”
Heroic Food is currently in the process of raising funds for the second stage of its master plan by Ennead Lab and RAFT Landscape Architecture, which will transform the old farm into a complex with eight supportive housing units built to passive house standards, a community facility and a greenhouse.
To learn more about how you can support Heroic, check out our video above or visit the Heroic Food website.