Local Veteran Finds Peace on Farm

DSCN7214Steve Acheson grew up on a dairy farm in Campbellsport, WI, and that’s where his passion for agriculture started. At the age of 18, he joined the Army and served 400 missions in Sadr City, Iraq in 2005. After serving, he earned a Civil/Structural engineering degree from UW Platteville, but he and his partner Steph wanted to do more.

Steve and Steph started an organic community supported agriculture (CSA) farm a little over one year ago. A CSA is an alternative, locally based economic model of agriculture. It also can be referred to as a network of people who support local farms, with growers and consumers sharing the risks and benefits of food production. Peacefully Organic Produce is proud to be the first veteran-led CSA farms in the Madison area.

After just one year in the making, they gained 40 CSA members, and hope to get to 100 members by next year. Steve manages four acres of certified organic vegetables. He also has hives for honey, an herb garden, nine extra transitional acres for produce and crops, including melons, potatoes, onions, radishes, peppers, pumpkins, clover, squash, and carrots, just to name a few. Next year, he hopes to have egg-layers and a rotational poultry operation as well.

The majority of Steve’s workers are veterans, like himself. The farm aims to provide a peaceful place for veterans to return home and learn about organic agriculture. One of Steve’s goals is to educate veterans about CSA. “The biggest thing is to provide the veterans the ability to be productive with their time and hopefully come back from war and become a productive member in society,” said Steve. “Second is to help veterans heal and be part of something that is meaningful to the community.”

Steve’s future goal for the farm is not only growing his client base, but also reaching out to veterans. Some of the veterans are experiencing disabilities that prevent them from normal employment, and Peacefully Organic Produce helps them through Compensated Work Therapy – an entity of the Veteran’s Affairs (VA) that matches veterans to employers. Veterans will come out a few days a week to work, which is compensated either monetarily or by a weekly “worker’s share” of produce. Steve noted, “Over 70 percent of veterans from Wisconsin are from rural communities, so the farm is a good fit for them.”

Due to the heavy physical demands of organic farming, combined with service-connected disabilities, Steve is working with AgrAbility in hopes of making the work safer and easier not only for himself, but also for the other veterans on the farm. AgrAbility is looking forward to working with Steve and making connections with veterans.

For more information about Steve’s endeavors with Peacefully Organic Produce, visit http://popscsa.com.