“And they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will no longer fi ght against nation nor train for war anymore”     Isaiah 2:4

07-06-11-swords-into-plowshares.jpgThe North Carolina Farm Center for Innovation and Sustainability with its ally, the N.C. Wal-Mart Foundation has declared war:

A war on hunger! A war on military veterans’ unemployment! A war on the waning sustainability of small farms!

The N.C. Swords to Plowshares project will train veterans and active-duty troops leaving the military in agricultural enterprises and innovative farming practices. Vets will get hands-on experience in organic pesticides, solar drip irrigation, biochar topsoil, “green organics” and high-tunnel technology in an “agricultural boot camp.”

Two-thirds of the training will focus on utilization of the land, equipment and skills that will allow the participants to compete for jobs in the state’s agricultural industries.

Unemployment among military veterans is a shocking 33 percent and jobs (particularly without skills) are as scarce as hen’s teeth. But collaboration with community partners such as Fayetteville Technical Community College, the Workforce Development Program and the Military Business Assistance Center and armed with a $50,000 grant from Wal-Mart, the Farm Center hopes to shift the attention of young warriors from the battlefi elds of Iraq and Afghanistan to the farm fi elds of southeastern North Carolina.

A national trend to grow food locally in order to assure food safety and food security has lead to the realization that young soldiers possess many of the qualities to succeed in naturally grown and organic-farming enterprises and related businesses.

Agriculture, like the military, is not for the faint of heart. Soldiers have to be able to operate independently, take risk, not be afraid of hard work and long days, be disciplined and enjoy the physical and the outdoors (i.e. does not want to sit behind a desk).

The mission: Feed the forces (our communities), develop the opportunity to grow your own business and decompress in an environment that creates rather than destroys.

Archie’s Acres is teaching Marines from nearby Camp Pendleton, Calif., to wage a “ground assault” on stray frogs that would clog an irrigation system. In Central Florida, a wounded warrior who left farming to join the military has come full circle, designing a wheelchair-accessible farm to grow “red, white and blueberries.”

Farming is one of the 10 Best Green Jobs and, according to CNN’s Money, demand for organic farmers is Number 2 in “hot jobs” in the “green space.” Many vets come from rural backgrounds and have access to low-interest loans to go into business for themselves.

In North Carolina, young recruits to agriculture would rejuvenate the aging farmer population which is both dwindling and has an average age of 58-years-old. Farming has become the cause du jour among young people with college degrees and trust funds, but the “gut” sense of the old timers is when many have dropped out, the vets will still be there.

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