Military veterans are no strangers to hard work, but coming back to life in the civilian world when their service is complete remains a rough transition. So when one former Marine bought land in California and began tending avocado trees, an idea sprouted: why not use that training and dedication for a new green career?

The Los Angeles Times reports on Colin Archipley's success at farming and how it grew into Veterans Sustainable Agriculture Training, an organization that helps combat-experienced post-9/11 veterans get a new lease on life by working the land.

Archipley and his wife founded Archi's Acres, now growing herbs and greens in addition to avocados and selling them to local vendors including Whole Foods. They were among 75 farmers and retailers at a career fair in Santa Monica in early July encouraging veterans to consider a food-related career.

"Creating a new generation of farmers and food people out of our returning veterans can … give those at risk of being lost the renewed mission and purpose that they need, and the respect ― and even heroism ― that they deserve," said Michael O'Gorman, executive director of the Farmer Veteran Coalition, which put on the career fair.

Jason Rich, another soldier-turned-farmer, told the LA Times that farming can be a way to heal. “It's meditational in some ways,” he said.

A similar program started by Iraq veteran Garrett Dwyer and the deans at the University of Nebraska's Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture also aims to keep some younger, able-bodied veterans in rural communities, which are increasingly losing residents to cities.

“Combat Boots to Cowboy Boots” offers both on-campus and long-distance education, and plans to partner with other agricultural colleges in the future.

MNN homepage photo: aniuszka/iStockphoto

Veterans find peaceful new lives as sustainable farmers
Programs like 'Combat Boots to Cowboy Boots' aim to give veterans a new sense of purpose and make them a driving force in the green economy.