Soldiers returning home from the battlefield often find the adjustment to civilian life challenging. Whether it’s the difficulty finding a job that aligns with their military experience or learning to live with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), there are more than enough reasons to struggle.
But one veteran is finding a creative way to adapt to the civilian world.
First, he built a farm to grow food to help feed struggling veterans and their families in the DC area at no cost to them. Then he started providing training opportunities for other veterans interested in learning about the farming industry. The kicker? He is accomplishing all this with no prior farming experience to help manage an extreme case of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Pete Scott, the veteran behind it all, was a former counter-intelligence agent for the 902nd Military Intelligence Group which works hand in hand with special operations units. He recently sat down with SOFREP to tell us about his background and how he ended up running a farm.
“After 11 years (1999-2010) in the Army, I was burnt out,” Pete said.
Can you blame him? Pete spent his entire military career during the War on Terror, one of the most intense and tumultuous periods for American armed forces which were actively fighting two wars. The multiple deployments around the world eventually caught up to him.
“I’ve been through a lot. I was rated for 100 percent disability by the VA for PTSD. I had to go through an intense six-month in-patient therapy,” Pete continues. “After that, I bounced around awhile but found nothing that stuck.”
Having a passion for food and cooking, Pete enrolled in culinary school. However, that didn’t do the trick either.
“I didn’t like the high pressure and intensity of a kitchen,” Pete said.
Anyone who’s ever worked in a restaurant knows that there’s a lot of pressure to get food out on time. It requires occasional yelling and some organized chaos — not exactly the right environment for someone with an ongoing battle against PTSD.
Around that time, he began growing vegetables as a hobby and a form of stress relief. But this created another problem: He was growing food faster than he could consume it.
“I put the extra vegetables in a crate, brought them to the chaplain in DC, put it on his desk, and asked if he could use them. He told me, ‘We could always use food,‘” Pete said.
It was at that moment that he found his calling and decided that farming was the answer.
“There are an estimated 50,000 veterans in the DC area who struggle with food insecurities,” Pete tells SOFREP.
Pete then leased a nine-acre farm in Maryland in 2018 and began farming. He freely admits he didn’t know what he was doing at first and learned everything through trial and error.
But the numbers were impressive. Now, in his third season of farming, Pete has tripled his produce output and continues to expand. He has since prepared another lot to grow additional crops, acquired 25 chickens (donated by veteran Russell Gillespie of Marker 99 Poultry), and now has over a dozen beehives. Additionally, he has already given away over six thousand seedlings.
Pete said, “We partnered with the Farmer Veteran Coalition (FVP) to help them find veterans interested in beekeeping. [FVP] put the veterans through a beekeeping training program and once they complete it, we donate the hives to the vets.”
But his goals go much higher than feeding veterans and their families. He recently was awarded a grant from the Wounded Warrior Project to create and formalize an apprenticeship program for veterans.
“We want to create a farm training program for vets to give them the farming knowledge to take with them,” Pete specified.
As a veteran still dealing with PTSD, he understands the difficulty veterans face in the civilian world and wants to make a difference. In fact, he recently found a helping hand in a veteran who was facing her own problems.
Antoinette LaForce, an ex-Army supply NCO, who holds a degree in Horticulture, was also diagnosed with PTSD. Antoinette tells SOFREP: “I was in the process of losing my home and turning my van into a camper… and then I found Pete.”
She currently lives in the house located on the farm and is a full-time caretaker. When asked what this opportunity and living situation meant to her, she replied, “I’ve been given a new look on life to share with my kids. I feel like I’m part of a solution.”
Both Pete and Antoinette say that working on the farm is therapeutic and eases the difficulties of PTSD.
During our tour of the farm, I recognized that to create a high-performing farm all of the different pieces need to run perfectly. But it is very much a work in progress. In fact, despite all that Pete has accomplished, he tells SOFREP about his end goal:
“I want to turn the farm into a pilot program to create purpose and employ veterans. Ultimately, I want to grow high-quality food at market cost and get it into the hands of people that need it — then scale it!”
Pete is undertaking a very honorable and noble cause: He’s continuing his own PTSD therapy, feeding others, and giving veterans useful skills. He is veritably killing three birds with one stone.
If you are interested you can help in a number of ways.
Pete said, “We always need volunteers, especially in the spring. We could always use more money for better equipment and even more wood chips to fertilize seedlings.”
“We can use help from arborists, entomologists, and SMEs in growing market vegetables — even a beekeeper would be great!”
If you are an SME — or Subject Matter Expert — consider visiting the farm to share your knowledge that will ultimately help veterans.
Pete’s project is young but it will continue to grow and help him fight his demons along the way. And you can help him in his project by getting involved. To support the cause or find more information, go to www.fieldsforvalor.org.
This article was originally published on December 2nd, 2020.