Newsletter – April 2015

Newsletter – April 2015


An Historic Journey:  3 War Memorials, 3 Veteran Stories & the Cherry Blossoms

Antietam, Vietnam, Iraq –  One cannot help but be struck by the horrific toll that war takes on people, when you visit West Virginia and Washington DC. Ground Operations had a wonderful, but sobering, trip to the East Coast this month.  In May, we come back to the West Coast, with screenings at several California Grange Halls and then celebrate veteran farms  in Washington state: Growing Veterans and the Old Homestead Alpacas.


In early April, Ground Operations: Battlefields to Farmfields warmed up the audience at the American Conservation Film Festival event in West Virginia, for the stories shared at dinner by our three veterans about their time in Iraq and their new careers in farming.

Edgar Hercila served the U.S. Army as a Civilian Affairs Engineer, who brought better farming techniques to the tribal villages in Iraq. Now he uses the same survival skills to farm in the inner-city gang territory of Los Angeles.  Edgar turned an abandoned “druggie” parking lot into a greenhouse and hydroponic farm, bringing fresh food to an undernourished community.

Calvin Riggleman, Bigg Riggs Farm, spoke of a family farming history that predates the American Revolution — and after two deployments to Iraq with the Marines — he built a farm and now sells at the nation’s oldest farmers market in Alexandria, VA and five others, including the White House. Now that’s a legacy! He’s bought the local commercial kitchen and helps other farms to turn their crops into  “jams, jellies and salsas.” Calvin has a big laugh  that shakes walls, and a personal drive to match.

James McCormick is a humble guy. He won’t tell you that he received two Bronze stars, and recently a Silver Star.  After 16 years as an enlisted man in the Army, they commissioned him – “but I don’t even like officers.”  He mesmerized our audience as he told of being wounded and sent right back into battle not once, but twice, before a third hit sent him home.  Now he teaches other veterans how to grow their own food security, as Director of the Veterans and Warriors to Agriculture. Working with the WV Dept. of Agriculture, they’ve trained 250 farmer-veterans so far.  Semper Fi.

Civil War history comes alive in West Virginia. 
Harper’s Ferry, Bull Run, Manassas, Fredericksberg are all closely connected. This lovely scene of a simple church belies it’s history. The Battle of Antietam, held in the rolling farmland of Maryland, over the creek from West Virginia, was unfathomable.  23,000 men died in the course of 12 hours of battle.  That’s half the number of the Vietnam War, in one day.
The Vietnam Memorial
Two days after Antietam, Edgar and I found ourselves at the the Vietnam Memorial in Washington DC.  If you haven’t been, go. It’s important to remember. 58,000 names are on that wall. This photo surprised me – I was going for the two roses, but later saw the reflections of many other people drawing near, just as each name on the wall had many family and friends.
Cherry Blossoms on Parade
Seeing the cherry blossoms at their peak in D.C. is like seeing the fall colors in New England — a not to be missed experience. I’ve never heard so many foreign accents in one place, as I did walking around the lake under a canopy of blossoms. It’s a global event!
Growing Veterans Expanding

We are celebrating the new Outposts for G.V. in Seattle and Olympia, WA with a screening at the UW-Botthel on May 12.

Old Homestead Alpacas
Join us at the Elks Lodge in Walla Walla, WA on May 14 as we feature this veteran-owned farm, that is one of the first to participate in raising seed stock for the alpaca industry.


Ground Ops is partnering with the California Grange

Grange Halls statewide can now share the film with their members and neighbors.  To kick off the collaboration, I will travel with Grange president, Bob McFarland to several No. CA communities for screenings and some plain talk about bringing vets into agriculture.

April 30:     State Capitol, Rm. 447, Sacramento

April 30:     Grange Performing Arts Center, Sacramento

May 1:       Sebastopol Grange

May 2:       Laytonville Grange

May 3:       Eureka Grange

For tour info please contact the Grange at 916-454-5805

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 If you like what we do, please support the work with a tax deductible donation.  It all helps. 

Also, last call for sponsors who’d like to be included in the         “Ground Operations Field Manual”  which will be part of new DVD packaging.  It’s a basic guide of info, links & resources for beginning farmer-veterans.

Contact:,  805-640-1133

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