|By Claudia Parsons
6:10 a.m. September 7, 2007
NEW YORK – Matt McCue had a moment of enlightenment in Iraq while guarding the back door of a house where his
fellow soldiers were hunting Saddam Hussein – he bit into a sweet lime and discovered an interest in horticulture.
Now he's part of a movement seeking to help returning U.S. Veterans find peace in civilian life by tilling the land.
"You take someone who has been walking around the street looking for insurgents, who's basically trained to
capture people, to kill them ... You can't put them in some ordinary job and expect them to grasp on to it," McCue
"To go from that to watching things grow, to taking care of life, has been a very important step for me," he said by
telephone from Niger in West Africa, where he is a Peace Corps volunteer teaching agriculture.
"It's beautiful to go to that nurture mode," he said, recalling how his curiosity was sparked by the produce in
farmers' markets in Iraq. "I had no idea there was a variety of lime that tasted like that."
McCue will be in New York this weekend for a forum on the impact of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan on rural
communities. Organized by a group called Farms Not Arms, the forum is part of the buildup to Sunday's Farm Aid
concert, a benefit for family farmers that was first launched in 1985.
McCue, who grew up in the suburbs of Albuquerque, New Mexico, said it was hard to leave his field of millet,
sesame and beans in the village of Garbey Kourou, even for a short trip. He is hoping his story may be an example
William O'Hare, senior fellow at the Carsey Institute at the University of New Hampshire, analyzed U.S. Military
casualties in a report last year and found the number of war deaths of soldiers from rural areas was
"About 19 percent of the soldier-age population live in rural America but they account for 27 percent of the
deaths," O'Hare told Reuters. He linked that to a scarcity of jobs in poor rural areas where people were less likely
to go to college or work full-time jobs, making a military career more appealing.
POLITICS OF WAR
One of the biggest names associated with Farm Aid, musician Willie Nelson, has long been an anti-war campaigner
and Farms Not Arms says it opposes the war in Iraq.
But McCue and others involved in Saturday's forum said they were politically neutral and focused on how farmers
can work with veterans to their mutual advantage.
"Our farmers are in trouble right now and so are our soldiers," said Nadia McCaffrey, whose son Patrick was killed
in Iraq in 2004 – one of at least 3,750 U.S. Military deaths there since the March 2003 invasion.
She founded a group called Veterans Village to help soldiers returning with post traumatic stress disorder and
other problems. The group plans to set up a self-sustaining organic farm in North Carolina for veterans.
"The farm is going to be a safe place for them to be," said McCaffrey. "Many of them thought they were going to go
back to life and put the war behind them but it didn't quite work this way."
Saturday's event will mark the launch of a politically neutral group called the Farmer-Veteran Coalition to provide
farm jobs, training and land for veterans, organizers said.
Steve Ledwell, a U.S. Navy veteran and recovering alcoholic and drug addict, runs a shelter in New Hampshire
called the Veterans Victory Farm which houses up to 19 veterans.
"Getting back to the basics of farm life is very therapeutic," Ledwell said. A similar facility for as many as 200
veterans is planned for Long Island, New York.
When McCue looks back on his time in Iraq, he likes to recall farmers passing through checkpoints to take their
crops of watermelons or pomegranates to markets that continued to function despite the violence and chaos.
"I realized there was a power in that," he said. "There are more soldiers in the United States than farmers at this
point. Five years down the line maybe it won't be rare for vets to take this path."
VETERANS SUPPORT SWELLS ON CALIFORNIA COAST
Citizens organize to deliver programs and care not being provided by the military.
By Matthew Hevezi
SANTA CRUZ, California
Riding atop a growing grass roots wave of advocacy and support for veterans returning home from war duty, a
group of 145 Californians gathered town hall style in Santa Cruz June 10 to organize efforts in aftercare and
transitional support programs that veterans say are not being provided via their commanders, the Department of
Defense or the Veterans Administration.
Concerned veterans, citizens and members of local veterans advocacy organizations shared notes, experiences
and insight on community resources and support networks available to help current generation veterans mend
back into their families and hometown communities.
Advocates for both veterans and small farming announced new transitional career opportunities for returning
veterans. The farmers said they want to guide veterans toward new careers in the niche and organic farming
industry. With plenty of land available and support of local growers to help the veterans reintegrate and heal at
home through "placing their hands inside the earth," farmers said the climate is right and the need is great.
Nadia McCaffrey is responsible for much of the coordination and revival of veterans advocacy at the grass roots
level in the region McCaffrey, of Tracy, Calif., lost her son Patrick in Iraq in June 2004. He was killed while serving
a tour with the California National Guard. Shortly after her son's death, McCaffrey began organizing citizens who
were seeking out ways to help veterans adjust at home after their military service.
What McCaffrey unveiled in Santa Cruz, was a resident veterans transition project she has named Veterans
Village. Once opened, Veterans Village will serve returning veterans with a place to live while they recover from
their war experiences.
McCaffrey is organizing efforts to open the first Veterans Village on land in Livermore, Calif., where the U.S.
Veterans Administration currently has facilities there being considered for closing or relocation. North Carolina
may also host land for a future Veterans Village opening if McCaffrey has her wish.
In Santa Cruz, McCaffrey told veterans supporters that the need is too great to wait on the DoD or the VA to
respond. She said both organizations are overwhelmed by the needs of returning vets and that too many are
falling through the cracks with adjustment troubles at home with family, with friends, and employers. Medical
issues like brain injuries and mental health care are also difficult for many veterans to access.
With programs like Veterans Village, farming opportunities, and other types of veterans reintegration programs,
McCaffrey says that this kind of community support is a national responsibility; not just by the government, but by
each community where veterans come home to live and work.
These kind of programs give veterans a chance to get back on their feet and farmers are opening up their farms
to help out the veterans across the country and even in Mexico, McCaffrey said.
"I was excited to see the community taking an initiative to bring things to the table," said Tonia Sargent, of Camp
Pendleton, Calif., whose Marine husband was shot through his eye by a sniper in Iraq. "I truly believe ordinary
people are doing extraordinary things," Sargent said of those who came to Santa Cruz to help veterans.
"Veterans and their families told us how it is for them integrating back into society and their how their needs are
unmet, said Linda Speel, national coordinator at Farms Not Arms in Peteluma, Calif.
"Bringing everyday citizens, farmers, veterans and their families together out of the human need to heal from war
touched my heart and encouraged me to keep helping," Speel said.
"More connections were made by farmers and farm training groups to work with veterans. A coalition was agreed
upon to make this happen and another meeting is planned in Sonoma County this summer."
|© 2007-2013, Nadia McCaffrey, the Patrick McCaffrey Foundation & the villages, all rights reserved ©
Formed in 2006-2007, the organization is a peace based organization for
members of the military who have served in the war, we are focusing on the Iraq & Afghanistan conflicts, however, this foundation is to help all war veterans . We
believe the best way to support our troops is to bring them home now and take care of them when they get here.
Tanks to Tractors
August 25, 2009
of creating a new generation of farmers working with returning young veterans.
Meet them and hear their stories.
The Farmer-Veteran Coalition seeks to help our returning veterans find employment,
training, and places to heal on America’s farms.
At the same time the Coalition hopes that some of these young men and women may help
address our country’s critical need for more good, hard-working people entering the field
For more information see:
Appearing along with the Farmer Veterans:
Amy Fairweather: Iraq Veteran Project Director for Swords to Plowshares
Gold Star Mothers Nadia McCaffrey and Karen Meredith:
Michael O’Gorman co-founder of FVC
There will be a press conference Sept. 18th at the Veterans Memorial Building at 3PM
Local food will be provided and prepared by
Swanton Berry Farms and CASFS as well as other local markets
Dinner begins at 6:30 PM
Tickets are $50.00
Music will follow at 9:30PM with The Jethro Jeremiah Band
For music only tickets are $10.00 at the door only.
Event is on September 19th.
At The Veterans Memorial Building
846 Front Street
Santa Cruz, CA
Event and dinner tickets available at Brown Paper Tickets
Michael O'Gorman and veteran-farmers
are available for interviews and can be reached
contact information:Linda Speel,
707-765-0196 or 707-696-5725 cell,