Ten years ago, Air Force veteran Sara Creech almost didn’t attend NCAT’s first week-long Armed to Farm, a sustainable agriculture education program for military veterans. After driving from Indiana to Arkansas for the training, anxiety told her to turn around and go home. Instead, she found the strength to stay.
“I went in there and had the most powerful week of my life,” Sara Creech said. “I really look at this life that I’ve built right now, and it all started with that Armed to Farm.”
The National Center for Appropriate Technology today released its short film “Armed to Farm Stories: Sara Creech,” in which Creech, a former surgery and trauma nurse who served during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, shares her story of overcoming loss through organic farming. Attending NCAT’s Armed to Farm program in 2013 empowered Sara not only to pursue farming, but also to help other farmer veterans.
In the film, we see the diversified vegetable, fruit, and livestock farm Sara has built over the past ten years and hear from members of the farmer veteran community who have benefited from Sara’s mentorship.
Many service members feel disconnected from their communities and former lives when they come home, Sara said. Organic and sustainable farming can help them feel connected and whole again.
“Armed to Farm offers practical information to help veterans get their farms started, or expand their operations,” said Margo Hale, Armed to Farm Program Director. “The classroom sessions, along with farm tours and hands-on activities, give them a strong foundation in sustainable agriculture. And the relationships they develop during the week of training—which often continue long after the week is over—are invaluable.”
Armed to Farm participants learn from seasoned farmers and gain direct experience on livestock, vegetable, fruit, and agritourism operations. Since the week-long program began ten years ago, more than 1,000 veterans from 47 states have participated in the training. When surveyed one year after attending an Armed to Farm, 73 percent of participants indicated they continued farming, had started farming, or were in the process of starting a farm.
Sara credits farming with bringing peace to her life, as well as giving her purpose—caring for the land, feeding her community, and supporting other veterans who want to farm. And Sara is just one example of Armed to Farm alumni helping their fellow farmer veterans.
“Sara exemplifies what we hope to achieve through the Armed to Farm program,” said Hale. “Not only is she operating a successful diversified farm, but she has taken what she learned from us and amplified it so that many other veterans have access to that knowledge and support.”
Watch the film, here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HdsOjbc-GYY
To learn more about NCAT’s Armed to Farm program, visit ARMEDTOFARM.ORG.