Greetings, my name is Joshua Anderson I have served America twice, once as a medic in the Army, then secondly as a agriculture extension agent for the Peace Corps in Niger, West Africa. Until recently I was working and traveling full time as the veteran coordinator for the FVC. Currently, I am studying organic agriculture as a farm apprentice at the UC Santa Cruz: Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems, or CASFS for short.
I am writing to broadly outline my experiences as a farm apprentice for the last three months and paint a portrait of how this experience will mold my future endeavors while connecting more veterans to agriculture opportunities.
The CASFS experience is a 6 month 360 degree learning environment spent living with 39 other apprentices in tents and surviving on the food grown onsite. Fellow apprentices consists of farmers, chefs, policy wonks, as well as many other food related professionals devoted to improving the state of community food production and accessibility.
At the farm our studies and activities are divided rotationally into 6 week blocks in which we work at different sites and scales of production for "field" vegetable production, cut flower and gardening, greenhouses, and orcharding. Furthermore within these 6 week blocks are sub rotations in which we manage daily chores and operations to keep the plants healthy and the farm viable. Aside from farming we also learn about marketing, business management, and applied botanical, biological, and earth science concepts related to agriculture.
CASFS is well respected not only for its curriculum but the quality of work its former apprentices achieve after graduating. After 35 years of operation, this "Harvard of horticulture" is considered by many as one main cradles of modern American organic agriculture.
My personal aspirations at CASFS are to become a better farmer, teacher and manager. With this in mind the post CASFS plan is to begin an international farming project called the Valley Forge Village or VFV for short in Sauk Centre Minnesota. Working in conjunction with our sister organization, the Patrick McCaffrey Foundation www.patrickmccaffreyfoundation.org our determination is to set the national standard for veterans services related to personal wellness, occupational training, and village scale food production
When developing the site at VFV, agriculture production will be focused on sustainably producing food for ourselves, the local community, and the larger region. To achieve these goals the farm will use a diversity of approaches such as education, vocational training, and horticultural therapy by modeling an apprenticeship program based on the principals of CASFS.
Currently the VFV is aiming to begin farming next season, as future farm manager my expectations are that we will need between 10-20 veterans working in the capacities of structural remodeling and building, equipment operation, animal husbandry, orchards, vegetable-fruit production, marketing, and food services.
Living in Niger as a subsistence farmer taught me that my strengths are rooted in patience, adaptability, and creativity when challenged to a task. Since returning both the FVC and CASFS have equally been instrumental in making myself a more well rounded farmer, food fighter, and professional.
This is simply a summation of a farmer vets' past few months, if any of these thoughts reach out to you or someone you know please enlist in our efforts, I assure our mission is simply nothing short of a movement to best enable the next generation of American farmers and our nation's next era of sustainable food production.