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Vegetable Vets: Archi's Acres Teaches Military Warriors Hydroponic Business

  • Written by  Joshua Glazer
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Hydroponic gardening is a good career option for ex-military transitioning to civilian life. Hydroponic gardening is a good career option for ex-military transitioning to civilian life.

 

Think what you will about the two wars that have defined U.S. foreign policy over the past decade; the fact is that more than 1.7 million Americans have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, most of whom will return to civilian life and be faced with unique challenges as they re-enter society. For a lucky few, hydroponic growing has become a life-changing option, thanks to an industrious ex-Marine couple in Southern California who are preparing hundreds of current and former military personnel for life after wartime.

Colin and Karen Archipley are the owners of Archi’s Acres, a 2.5-acre certified organic sustainable farm situated in the Tuscan-like hills overlooking Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, about 30 minutes north of San Diego, California. On a clear day, you can see a sliver of the Pacific Ocean out beyond the base. It’s a breathtaking vista, to be sure. But for the servicemen and women who have been coming to Archi’s Acres since 2007 to learn the skills of sustainable agriculture, the fantastic view is secondary to the serious work at hand: preparing to take the first steps out of military life. It’s a journey that the Archipleys themselves know well.

“When Colin came back [from Iraq], having fought an urban war, he didn’t want to deal with the public,” Karen said as to why, in 2006, the couple traded their small house in Venice, California, for the farm that is now their home. “We had originally planned for him to be a real-estate agent, and I would do mortgage loans,” Karen said. “And the last thing he wanted to do was drive people around looking for a house.”

The decision to try agricultural living was an informed one for the Archipleys. The property already had more than 150 avocado trees producing wonderful fruit. But the road to sustainability for Archi’s Acres happened almost by accident when the couple learned how unsustainable growing in the Southern California climate can be.

They also grow chard, kale, tomatoes and lettuce, all in custom-designed NFT channels that they will soon begin selling at local hydroponic stores.

“They always tell spouses not to tell [the soldiers] anything upsetting while they’re in battle, so I didn’t tell him about the first $800 water bill,” Karen said of her first month on the property, while Colin was still overseas. “But he saw it online, and that is when we became sustainable. After that, Colin was on the computer figuring out how are we going to conserve water.”

Today, Archi’s Acres produces more than avocados. The Archipleys have built two hydroponic-equipped greenhouses (constructed by veterans, of course) that produce more than 1400 organic basil plants a week, which are sold at local farmers markets. They also grow chard, kale, tomatoes and lettuce, all in custom-designed NFT channels that they will soon begin selling at local hydroponic stores, including their neighbors San Diego Hydroponics.

But equally important to the Archipleys as their hydroponic crop is the crop of students—over 200 a year—who come to Archi’s Acres to acquire the skills they need to start their own sustainable agricultural careers. Working with the local base, as well as an array of partners including MiraCosta College, John Deere Water and the Toro Company, the Veterans Sustainable Agriculture Training program at Archi’s Acres is helping to spread the message of sustainable hydroponic growing far and wide.
The class during Rosebud’s visit to Archi’s Acres included a Marine sergeant from Colorado who plans to start an aquaponics business near Denver.

There was another Marine and his wife, both or whom are training to start their own hydroponic greenhouse in Northern California when his enlistment ends in spring.

And then there was Army reservist Edgar Hircila, a first-generation Mexican-American and son of a migrant worker, whose time in Iraq as a civil affairs specialist was spent helping the citizens there maintain their own agricultural needs. Hercila will soon be returning to Iraq for another rotation, and he plans to try to teach some of the sustainable techniques he’s learned at Archi’s Acres to Iraqi farmers—which is something you can get behind no matter where you might fall on the political spectrum.

As Archi’s Acres approaches its fifth year in business, Colin Archipley sees nothing but growth for his unique enterprise. It’s tempting to toss out the old adage about swords to plowshares when discussing Archi’s Acres, and why not? The transition from soldier to farmer has been happening since the invention of agriculture (and sadly, war). As Colin explains, there are more similarities between the two occupations than one might immediately think.

Hydroponic growing has become a life-changing option, thanks to an industrious ex-Marine couple in Southern California who are preparing hundreds of current and former military personnel for life after wartime.

“The people I’ve met so far in the agriculture community remind me a lot of the people I’ve worked with in the military,” said Colin, dressed in a fleece Marine Corps jacket and Danner work boots. “Really down-to-earth, really mission-focused. And when they speak, they actually have something to say.”

Think what you will about the two wars that have defined U.S. foreign policy over the past decade; the fact is that more than 1.7 million Americans have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, most of whom will return to civilian life and be faced with unique challenges as they re-enter society. For a lucky few, hydroponic growing has become a life-changing option, thanks to an industrious ex-Marine couple in Southern California who are preparing hundreds of current and former military personnel for life after wartime.

Colin and Karen Archipley are the owners of Archi’s Acres, a 2.5-acre certified organic sustainable farm situated in the Tuscan-like hills overlooking Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, about 30 minutes north of San Diego, California. On a clear day, you can see a sliver of the Pacific Ocean out beyond the base. It’s a breathtaking vista, to be sure. But for the servicemen and women who have been coming to Archi’s Acres since 2007 to learn the skills of sustainable agriculture, the fantastic view is secondary to the serious work at hand: preparing to take the first steps out of military life. It’s a journey that the Archipleys themselves know well.

“When Colin came back [from Iraq], having fought an urban war, he didn’t want to deal with the public,” Karen said as to why, in 2006, the couple traded their small house in Venice, California, for the farm that is now their home. “We had originally planned for him to be a real-estate agent, and I would do mortgage loans,” Karen said. “And the last thing he wanted to do was drive people around looking for a house.”

The decision to try agricultural living was an informed one for the Archipleys. The property already had more than 150 avocado trees producing wonderful fruit. But the road to sustainability for Archi’s Acres happened almost by accident when the couple learned how unsustainable growing in the Southern California climate can be.

“They always tell spouses not to tell [the soldiers] anything upsetting while they’re in battle, so I didn’t tell him about the first $800 water bill,” Karen said of her first month on the property, while Colin was still overseas. “But he saw it online, and that is when we became sustainable. After that, Colin was on the computer figuring out how are we going to conserve water.”

Today, Archi’s Acres produces more than avocados. The Archipleys have built two hydroponic-equipped greenhouses (constructed by veterans, of course) that produce more than 1400 organic basil plants a week, which are sold at local farmers markets. They also grow chard, kale, tomatoes and lettuce, all in custom-designed NFT channels that they will soon begin selling at local hydroponic stores, including their neighbors San Diego Hydroponics (see articles, pg. 56).

But equally important to the Archipleys as their hydroponic crop is the crop of students—over 200 a year—who come to Archi’s Acres to acquire the skills they need to start their own sustainable agricultural careers. Working with the local base, as well as an array of partners including MiraCosta College, John Deere Water and the Toro Company, the Veterans Sustainable Agriculture Training program at Archi’s Acres is helping to spread the message of sustainable hydroponic growing far and wide.

The transition from soldier to farmer has been happening since the invention of agriculture.

The class during Rosebud’s visit to Archi’s Acres included a Marine sergeant from Colorado who plans to start an aquaponics business near Denver.

There was another Marine and his wife, both or whom are training to start their own hydroponic greenhouse in Northern California when his enlistment ends in spring.

And then there was Army reservist Edgar Hircila, a first-generation Mexican-American and son of a migrant worker, whose time in Iraq as a civil affairs specialist was spent helping the citizens there maintain their own agricultural needs. Hercila will soon be returning to Iraq for another rotation, and he plans to try to teach some of the sustainable techniques he’s learned at Archi’s Acres to Iraqi farmers—which is something you can get behind no matter where you might fall on the political spectrum.

As Archi’s Acres approaches its fifth year in business, Colin Archipley sees nothing but growth for his unique enterprise. It’s tempting to toss out the old adage about swords to plowshares when discussing Archi’s Acres, and why not? The transition from soldier to farmer has been happening since the invention of agriculture (and sadly, war). As Colin explains, there are more similarities between the two occupations than one might immediately think.

“The people I’ve met so far in the agriculture community remind me a lot of the people I’ve worked with in the military,” said Colin, dressed in a fleece Marine Corps jacket and Danner work boots. “Really down-to-earth, really mission-focused. And when they speak, they actually have something to say.”

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Archi’s Acres is not only providing organic nutrition, but helping veterans transition to life after military service.
Last modified on Saturday, 13 October 2012 04:29

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