Pantry Paratus Radio, Episode 026
Interview with Buck Adams, Founder of Veterans to Farmers
“Training Our Protectors to Become Providers”
I cannot think of a better way to solve a bunch of serious looming problems all at once than what Buck Adams, founder of Veterans to Farmers has done in the Denver metro area. Veterans coming back from war or otherwise discharging out of the military are among the highest unemployed demographic in the nation. At the same time our food is heavily subsidized, reliant on oil all the while being low in nutrition and our “non-communicable” diseases are going up at an alarming rate. Buck Adams is fighting a the good fight on multiple fronts by providing successful entrepreneurial jobs for veterans and quality, nutritious, locally-produced food in his home city of Denver, CO. How does Buck do all of this in the high plains desert of Colorado’s front range you ask? Give this interview a listen and be inspired. You can visit his website VeteransToFarmers.org to donate if you wish to help vets get started changing their lives and the communities in which they live.
We talk about:
-How Veterans to Farmers go started
-Wilson originally found Veterans to Farmers from their video on Youtube
-Buck Adams originally got started while researching food (where it comes from) and sustainability
-From there a business plan formed and the rest is history
-Buck now has a National Training Center in Denver in the works that will include one acre under roof which will be more like 10 acres under roof
-The story of Adam Cutlip, one of the original Veterans to Farmers (see video):
-Veterans to Farmers has partner with CSU to train in business management in addition to providing jobs for veterans
-The Greenhouse is really a “decompression chamber.”
-Farming is purposeful and the living things need the human interaction to thrive which the farmer provides
-Putting Veterans into whole foods
-How Buck Adams went from the Marine Corps to providing jobs for veterans
-Buck Adams grew up on a ranch in Texas until he was 16 and then moved to North West Arkansas to be a contract chicken farmer for Tyson
-Buck Adams went into working with veterans and entrepreneurial efforts and then started in on the sustainability piece which led to Circle Fresh Farms around 2007
-Veterans to Farmers is working with land developers to start other initiatives to put the controlled environment agriculture in greenhouses right in the housing development—embedding the local food movement right in the community!
-Local food, what? Yes, the business model works!
-Know your farmer, know your food!
-Wilson adds: I LOVE the idea of putting greenhouses right inside of a housing development
-The US imports 1.8 billion dollars worth of tomatoes annually
-Mexico has surpassed the US in controlled environment agriculture in greenhouses just to keep up with the demand in the US!
-Denver Metro from Boulder to Castle Rock is about 3 million people, and the Front Range from Ft Collins to Pueblo is about 5.3 million people. All of this is high plains desert, very dry, not a lot of water (typical well is 750-1,000’ or more).
-The importance of producing food in a high population area is not trivial—water savings, food miles, environmental concerns, food security, etc.
-Veterans to Farmers is creating jobs for veterans in the Denver Metro area by taking smart, physically strong, mentally sharp people who can be trained to produce food close to an area where it can be marketed to a wide population—I am trying to find a downside here . . .
-Veterans are trained on the job as a team to think on their feet
-Innovation is still king in farming
-Wilson tells his own story after getting out of the Army (right out of Baghdad) and not being able to find a job
-“Life is biological not mechanical.” —Joel Salatin
-Veterans are not only able to help themselves, but to help others; each new farm can provide twenty boxes of fresh produce to needy families each week!
-“Train the Trainer.” —Buck Adams
-Imagine the sense of satisfaction—a veteran getting to give what they have produced to someone in need, not going and getting a grant to redistribute someone else’s resources collected through some other means!
-Use of vertical space (stacking functions in time)
-Why controlled agriculture instead of field crops?
-Controlled agriculture is much more sustainable and easier on water use (commodity in high plains desert like Colorado’s front range).
-Up to 100 gallons of water to grow a head of lettuce in Yuma, where Veterans to Farmers can do it with ~ 1 gallon of water—this is efficiency
-No longer just dumping NPK on the plant (the soil is there to do more than just hold up the plant)
-Closed loop controlled agriculture testing for plant health, leaf tissue analysis, etc.
-Veterans to Farmers is one of the first greenhouse companies in the nation to certify a network of greenhouses as hyrdo-organic
-“Hydroponics” simply means “water working”
-Veterans to Farmers grows plants in inert material
-What is good for the farmer’s conscience is generally going to be good for the consumer eating his or her food because they are nurturing a living thing
-No herbicides or pesticides are used only Integrated Pest Management (IPM)
-Seeing the natural order as the teacher rather than the thing to be exploited by spraying toxic ick
-Energy has never been cheap, so farmers have always had to be close to the people that they serve and thus the food production system was inherently transparent
-Agriculture makes up 28-32% of the carbon output in the US—one of the highest energy consumers in the US
-CAFOs and flooding row crops is not a sustainable practice
-“We made food cheap, but we paid for it with our health.” —Buck Adams You are what you eat, let us focus on preventative medicine
-“Get big or get out.” —Leon Butts
-The USDA tells you to eat more fresh vegetables, yet in the deplorable (Wilson’s additional descriptor here) $80,000,000,000.00 Farm Bill there is a $36,000,000.00 provision for specialty crops—that is hardly a prioritization as it breaks down to 0.00045% if you are playing along with us on the home game here
-The soils in the Midwest and Upper plains are so good that they have the power to balance trade deficits and that is no trivial thing (never underestimate the power of the USDA)
-Veterans to Farmers Vision: To return the family farm to a prominent position on the American landscape.
-Veterans to Farmers has had overwhelming support in the communities they have gone into
-Vegetables are picked one day and at the customer’s door the next day. The leafy greens still have the roots so they are still alive!
-Statistics from the video embedded above: in the military there are 18 suicides per day, more suicide deaths than combat deaths. 14k calls per month to VA suicide specific hotline
-Helping veterans coming out of a job where their whole day is planned out for them to a career where they are helping others in their community like they helped and were supported themselves by their mates in the military
-It is almost like Veterans to Farmers is a reversal of Eisenhower’s farewell address “we can never go back to being a nation of farmers again . . . ”
-Local food production keeps money circulating in the local economy and helps everyone
-Local food production starts the economic fly wheel turning—this is Economics 101
-Colorado Local Food Shift
-Organic food hub is a hybrid CSA like a trade alliance for local Colorado small and medium scale growers to network together. This aggregates redundant business costs (insurance, book keeping, etc.) and keeps the farmer doing what they do best and not shuffling paperwork around.
-This model is reproducible
-Local food is in!
-Denver Public Schools has an initiative to go 10% local (food) and 20% local by 2020
-A local chicken farmer bring ethical poultry to market at $X per pound and a grocery store like Albertsons is able to bring it to market for less money per pound because they buy from a CAFO—people would see the value and the ethical choice in keeping food local and transparent rather than travel the proverbial 1,500 miles away
-What is Buck Adams’ least favorite vegetable that he would not consider growing?
-Wrap up with Buck Adams
“We have traded 18% food cost and 9% healthcare cost for 9% food cost and 18% healthcare cost.” —Joel Salatin
Nothing in this blog constitutes medical advice. You should consult your own physician before making any dietary changes. Statements in this blog may or may not be congruent with current USDA or FDA guidance.