Slow Food staffer Deena Goldman recently had the opportunity to chat with Gail Wadsworth, Slow Food chapter leader and new staff member at the Farmer-Veteran Coalition. Gail’s work is helping to create healthy and viable futures for veterans by offering them resources, tools and mentorships to get them connected to food and farming communities around the country. Read about Gail’s work in our Q&A.
DG: What is the goal of the Farmer-Veteran Coalition?
GW: There are 2 million veterans returning to the US – our goal is to reach 10,000 of those veterans, and to create 10,000 new farmers. That’s only a half of one percent but 10,000 new farmers could really make a big difference!
We are setting up a networks of farmers, and to help our veterans find a place within our food and farming communities. We have a growing list of veterans who want to get into farming – and we would like to set up a network of experienced farmers who can serve as their mentors. We think it’s really important to draw on the current knowledge base of farmers. We are starting with the people we know and creating connections with potential partners to use their networks to outreach. We want to work with people who abide by good, clean and fair values, with an emphasis on the fair.
DG: Where is your work done?
GW: We are headquarted in northern California but we are working all across America. Eventually we want to create a coalition of organizations around the country who will employ a Veterans Outreach Coordinator to do this work around. We’re drawing on communities that we wouldn’t normally have any contact with – why would people in food and farming otherwise be in touch with the Vietnam Veterans of America? But they’ve been extremely supportive. We’ve tapped into this community that would not normally be tuned in to sustainable agriculture.