From Sauk Centre Herald May 19,2009
Sustainable farming to play big role at Village
By Megan Atkinson
In an ever-changing world, health concerns and going green practices are more prevalent than
California organic farmer Michael O’Gorman gave a presentation regarding the sustainable
agriculture program for the village Saturday at the VVillage fundraiser.
Sustainable agriculture is one that produces an abundance of food without depleting the earth’
s resources or polluting its environment.
O’Gorman is the project director and a founder of the Farmer-Veteran Coalition, which was
created to develop healthy futures for America’s veterans by utilizing their help in building
green economies, rejuvenating rural communities and securing a nutritious food supply.
“We want to let people know that you no longer need to inherit the family farm in order to
prosper in today’s industry,” O’Gorman said.
This dynamic revolution in the food system won’t happen however, unless the 200-year trend
of declining farmers is reversed. As of now there are five times as many farmers over the age of
65 than farmers under 35 years old.
“People are responsible for the food they eat,” said Josh Anderson, a former army medic and
Peace Corps volunteer involved with the project. “We’re in it for the long haul and here to do
some serious producing and enterprising. It’s all about breaking bread with the community and
finding a common ground.”
“Farming is a life-long commitment to long hours and physical work. We will not find the
farmers without reaching out to the young Americans emerging from the military,” O’Gorman
said. “The physical aspect drove them to enlist in the military, and now they are looking for
something to challenge them.”
In addition to providing agricultural education, training and job opportunities, the Farm-Veteran
Coalition aligns veterans with experienced farmers and professionals within the industry, who
help mentor and advise those entering the field.
“We want to make sure that psychologically or physically injured vets receive special
equipment or extra help,” O’Gorman said.
According to O’Gorman, the inspiration for the Farmer-Veteran Coalition came when three Gold
Star Moms, including Nadia McCaffrey, Mary Tillman and Dolores Kesterman, all showed up in
spring of 2007 at a small gathering of farmers at Swanton Berry Farm in Davenport to discuss
creating jobs for returning veterans.
“It was there, standing with these women in a berry field overlooking the Pacific Ocean, that we
realized our farms could do more than just offer employment,” O’Gorman said.
|Farming and our Village:
The benefits of a vibrant farming project integrated into
the development of VVillage are many.
Creating a healing environment and healthy workspace for attending veterans regardless of
physical or psychological condition, as was so eloquently expressed by Nadia McCaffrey in
her first writings about the Veterans Village concept.
Creating on-site viable employment where veterans can walk to work, maintain flexible hours
if necessary and work in a friendly environment with other veterans.
Creating a viable and accredited job-training program. The accreditation of this program can
help lead to funding for job training that is not normally available to farming groups.
Giving participating veterans a tremendous sense of personal pride and accomplishment
every time they sit down to eat with their colleagues meals that they helped to produce.
Contributing monetarily to the running of the community by both reducing significantly the
cost of feeding residents, staff and visitors as well as creating a cash producing industry.
Creating the healthiest possible diet that will not only contribute to the wellness of the
residents but also train them for a lifetime of nutritious eating.
Adding to the experience of visitors both by allowing them to visit the farm and all its various
components as well as enjoy the food grown and harvested on the property.
Adding to the ‘mystique’ and visibility of the project, thus helping to generate funding.
Consider these facts:
Minnesota ranks seventh in agricultural sales in all of the United States and fifth in fresh and
Stearns County is the number one agricultural county in all of Minnesota with sales
approaching half a billion dollars.
The North Plains growing region of Minnesota and North Dakota ranks third in the country in
Minnesota ranks eighth in the country in meat and animal production.
Minnesota has one of the most diverse agricultural states in the nation.
Feeding the community
The most cost-effective thing the farm at VVillage could do is concentrate on growing a
significant percentage of the diet that would feed the residents, the staff and the visitors to the
community. Doing this would eliminate the entire cost differential that exists between the cost
of selling a farm product and the cost of buying ready to consume food.
In vegetable production 100% of good quality vegetables grown on the farm could be either
eaten fresh or canned or frozen for off-season production. In commercial vegetable
production 30-50% of vegetables are culled for being off size or cosmetically defective. To
sell the vegetables one has to also incur the cost of packing, packaging material, shipping and
selling. To buy vegetables one has to pay the seller for all these, plus his 30-50% mark-up.
In meat production the community can cull animals as it needs them or chooses to, use the
entire product and save the cost of butchering and processing.
Within the first season half of the community food budget can come directly from the farm.
That is a savings that will go up in years 2 and 3 as both the amount of occupants increase
and the percentage of the diet that is produced increases.
While the initial and most profitable focus of the farm at VFV will be producing
food for its own consumption there will be both unintentional excess to sell,
and specific crops that can be targeted for market production.
These sales can start out modestly, but can climb quickly in year #2 and year #3.
Investments in indoor greenhouse production can create significant revenue as well as
provide year-round employment and a healthy environment for wintertime work.