SF Foundation Sponsors Military Vet Farmers to Build Community

Providing work and a peaceful place for returning veterans to adjust to post-war life, while mobilizing the next generation of America's farmers. It sounds like quite the task, right? But that's just what Davis, California-based nonprofit Farmer Veteran Coalition is doing.

In fact, the organization has been providing jobs and organic farming education for returning veterans since 2008, and for veterans, there’s also the added benefit of adjusting to post-war life in a peaceful farming environment. Now, supported by a $105,000 grant from The San Francisco Foundation, several Marin county farms will begin to sponsor and provide organic farming internships for returning Bay Area veterans. (See San Francisco Foundation: Bay Area Grants).

"There is a growing number of veterans in the Bay Area looking for jobs — and many of them seek a new start through careers in farming, agriculture, and food production," said Francesca Vietor, Environment Program Officer at The San Francisco Foundation.  "Fortunately, this region is a hub for organic, sustainable, rich agriculture, and this is an emerging area of interest at The San Francisco Foundation." (Read Francesca Vietor's IP profile).

The San Francisco Foundation has long provided support for the Bay Area's people, organizations, and unique neighborhoods. In 2012 alone, the foundation provided grants totaling $89 million to a variety of organizations and people for community building, health, arts and education programs.

For Marin Veteran Project, four veterans will work as paid interns on farms and food businesses throughout Marin County and receive hands-on training.  The program is now underway, and the first intern — Army veteran Mike Walgrave — is working at Star Route Farms, one of the oldest organic row farms in California.

Organic consultant Helge Hellberg is leading the project, and he also provides mentoring for Walgrave.

"This is an unprecedented opportunity. Veterans can tend to the land, be surrounded by life, contribute in the production of organic food, learn job skills, and become a part of the West Marin community," Hellberg said. "It is healing for the Veterans, for the land, and for us as eaters. What a beautiful way to take care of and re-integrate our Veterans."