After serving overseas and in combat, a group of military veterans in Virginia is learning to farm on land that was cultivated by George Washington when he retired from the Army.
Non-profit organization Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food and Agriculutre provides agricultural training to 12 veterans at the Woodlawn Estate in Alexandria, Virginia. The land near Fort Belvoir was once part of Washington's Mount Vernon Estate.
"This is awesome. You get to work with other veterans, working on land that was first developed and put into production by another veteran, George Washington," said Sr. Chief Tom Snowdy, a veteran of the U.S. Navy Reserves.
In the days when Washington owned this land, most soldiers returned to farms after war. Veterans at Arcadia are following in those footsteps. One veteran even works in the fields while wearing his combat boots.
"I've always wanted to do farming," said U.S. Army veteran Evans Appiah. "Be my own boss and open my own farm and take charge from there."
"Hopefully, I would like to work on maybe a couple more farms before I go back home and try to start my own farm," said former U.S. Army Sgt. Laron Murrell.
Arcadia trains the veterans about sustainable farming through two programs, the Veteran Farm Fellowship and the Veteran Farmer Reserve Program. In the Veteran Farm Fellowship, the veterans study and work full time at Arcadia Farm for at least one year. Veterans in the reserve program meet one weekend each month to visit farms and take classes.
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Arcadia said the veterans already have almost everything they need to learn from their training in the military.
"Absolutely, getting up at the crack of dawn, coming on time, working hard until the job is done. Not just seeing, you know, one task and getting through it, but continuously working and getting through the day. But also just the skills that they were doing in the military from small engine repair to carpentry, all sorts of really valuable skills," Arcadia farmer Anita Adalja said.
But there is one thing still missing from the farm that Arcadia said the veterans need to complete their training: a tractor.
"Currently, we're borrowing tractors weekly from Mount Vernon who've been super generous with their equipment, but it won't be sustainable for them or for us to keep doing that," said Katherine Collins, with the Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food and Agriculture.
Arcadia said having a tractor is essential for these veterans to be skilled and ready for farms of their own.
"I've done a couple on farm interviews for part-time work on a farm and one of the jobs I didn't get cause I don't know how to drive a tractor," Snowdy said.
Arcadia is trying to raise $20,000 on Wednesday to purchase a tractor, farm tools and other supplies. As of 5:30 p.m., Arcadia has raised more than $16,600. Click here to donate to the cause and click here for more information about Aracadia's Veteran Farmer Program.